IT was a gorgeous deep-blue sky as our plane began the descent to the airport. As I peered out my little window, the brilliance of the cumulus clouds made me squint. It was a beautiful sight.
But as we plunged beneath the clouds, the world suddenly turned gray. Rain streaked across my window as the cities below seemed encamped by a foggy darkness and seemingly inescapable gloom. And yet, the reality of the warm sun and clear skies hadn’t changed. They were still there.
So it is with joy. True joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And since God is eternal, joy is eternally accessible to us. Even hurricanes cannot completely obscure sunlight; so too the Great Storm of our times—or the personal storms of our daily lives—cannot completely extinguish the burning sun of joy.
However, just as it takes a plane to rise above the storm clouds to find the sun again, so too, finding true joy requires that we rise above the temporal into the eternal realm. As St. Paul wrote:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. (Col 3:1-2)
FIVE KEYS TO TRUE JOY
There are five key ways to find, remain in, and recover authentic Christian joy. And they are learned in the school of Mary, in the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary.
I. The Annunciation
Just as the animal and plant kingdom cannot thrive unless they obey the laws of nature, so too, humans cannot thrive in joy unless we enter into harmony with God’s holy will. Even though Mary’s whole future was suddenly turned upside-down by the announcement that she was to carry the Savior, her “fiat” and obedience to God’s sovereign Will became a source of joy.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
No human being will ever find true joy if they are at war with the “law of love”. For if we are created in God’s image, and “God is love”, then only by living according to our true nature will we cease the war against our conscience—which is called sin—and discover the joy of living in the Divine Will.
Happy are they who keep my ways. (Prov 8:32)
Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, ”The Joy of the Gospel”, n. 2
Repent and believe the Good News to begin living in joy.
II. The Visitation
Just as a fire deprived of oxygen will soon be extinguished, joy will soon lose its light and warmth when we close ourselves off to others. Mary, despite being several months pregnant, sets out to serve her cousin Elizabeth. The Blessed Mother’s love and presence, united intimately to her Son’s, becomes a source of joy for others precisely because she makes herself available to them. Charity, then, is the great wind of the Spirit that stokes joy and keeps it as a lively flame in which others can bask in its warmth.
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy… My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:44, 46-47)
This is my commandment:love one another as I love you… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:12,11)
Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, ”The Joy of the Gospel”, n. 10
Love others to increase your and others’ joy.
III. The Nativity
True Christian joy is found, not only in loving others, but most especially in making known to others He-Who-Is-Love. How can the one who has found authentic joy then not share the Source of that joy with others? The gift of the Incarnate Lord was not Mary’s alone; she was to give Him to the world, and in so doing, increased her own joy.
Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment. For “here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means.” —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, ”The Joy of the Gospel”, n. 10
Sharing the Gospel with others is our privilege and joy.
IV. The Presentation in the Temple
Suffering may seem to be the antithesis of joy—but only if we do not understand the redemptive power of it. “For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross.” Heb 12:2 Suffering, in fact, can put to death in us all that is an obstacle to true joy—that is, all that keeps us from obedience, love, and service to others. Simeon, while fully aware of the “clouds of contradiction” that would seem to obscure the Messiah’s mission, fixed his eyes beyond them to the Resurrection.
…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles… (Luke 2:30-32)
I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, ”The Joy of the Gospel”, n. 6
Fixing our eyes on Jesus and eternity gives us enduring joy knowing that the “sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” Rom 8:18
V. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
We are weak and prone to sin, to “losing” the comforting joy of being in communion with Our Lord. But joy is restored when, despite our sin, we look again for Jesus; we seek Him out “in his Father’s house”. There, in the confessional, the Saviour awaits to pronounce forgiveness upon the humble and contrite of heart… and restore their joy.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God… let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. (Heb 4:14, 16)
…“no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”… whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. —POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudium, ”The Joy of the Gospel”, n. 3
Joy is restored through the mercy and forgiveness of the Savior who never turns away the repentant sinner.
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice! (Phil 4:4)
Watch: The Joy of Jesus
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