1 Peter 1:8, Job 19:25-27, Acts 5:41
I have a passion for singing martyrs.
Joy is not the same thing as “happiness”. God made us for happiness, Catholic theology’s first sentence says, and we will experience that in the Kingdom, but in this life, this fallen world, we aspire to joy. Joy suggests a more complete, ecstatic, consuming passion than mere happiness. In short, “happiness” can be described as an emotion, while “joy” is more properly related to a state of one’s being.
Sadly, many people in our secular world have lost the joy of knowing God. We all often try to cover internal emptiness with superficialities that don’t work and never will. But as Catholics, we have the duty to be channels of Christ’s love and true happiness to the world. Showing the happiness which results from love of God is a means to attract more people to the true joy of loving Him.
The saints are those people who evangelized with the glow of the joy which everyone wants, even though they seemed to lack all the created “things”, which we initially, naively believe will bring us this joy. Like a child navigating their world only to mature under tender loving care, to a more profound understanding of what really matters, what really is important in life. Yes, yes, Maslow’s hierarchy I grant you, and I might certainly sing a different song were I in severe need, but still.
For example, St. Philip Neri is known as the saint of laughter – he played with children in the streets of Rome and gave repentants ludicrous penances in the confessional. Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati liked to laugh at his own practical jokes. St. Rose of Lima wrote songs and could often be heard singing in her garden. The teenager Bl. Chiara Badano was known for her cheerfulness even as she lay dying with disease. St. Pio of Pietrelcina advised us to “serve the Lord with laughter.” In fact, if you look at a photo of any saintly person, chances are that he or she is smiling. This joy of Christ is what makes holy people so compelling and wonderful to be around.
“Let anyone who comes to you go away feeling better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile. Joy shows from the eyes. It appears when we speak and walk. It cannot be kept closed inside us. It reacts outside. Joy is very infectious.” – Mother Teresa. We, as Americans, abundantly blessed in material resources, of all people in the world, should know that more and more abundance of material resources cannot address the inner, deeper longing within us.
There is a line no less perceptive for having been mistakenly attributed to Plato: “We can easily forgive the child who is afraid of the dark, but the real tragedy is the adult who is afraid of the light.” Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, not a special gift given to a select few; it is simply a by-product of living in God. However, when people think of a Catholic saint, the first image that comes to mind is a sad, pale, thin figure, often tortured and in pain, or looking as if he was wearing a hair shirt.
Nehemiah 8:10 – “Do not be grieved (sad, sorrowful), for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Thomas Merton was asked if it was possible to tell if someone had truly undergone inner purification, becoming transformed into the image of Christ. “It is very difficult to tell but usually it is accompanied by a wonderful sense of humor.” There are many amusing stories about the saints which illustrate their joy. While on a journey to visit one of her convents, a donkey dumped St. Teresa of Avila into a stream of freezing cold water. Standing in her water-logged, heavy habit, she yelled at God, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”
[2 Samuel 6:17-22] “As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
David answered his wife , “I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes….”
“Joy is the serious business of heaven”. -C.S. Lewis
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; 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”.” -Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel” (3)
Love, and His joy,