The quest for joy can follow various paths, and some of these turn out to be mistaken, if not dangerous.

  • How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures?
  • How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?

 

Whatever brings us true joy, whether the smallest joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him.

God created us in His image out of love, in order to shower His love upon us and to fill us with His presence and grace.

God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by Him.

Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: ‘I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive’.

God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. We see in the Gospel how the events at the beginning of Jesus’ life are marked by joy.

  • When the Archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of the Saviour, his first word is ‘Rejoice!’ (Lk 1:28).
  • When Jesus is born, the angel of the Lord says to the shepherds: ‘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 Saviour has been born for you, who is Messiah and Lord’ (Lk 2:10-11).
  • When the Magi came in search of the child, ‘they were overjoyed at seeing the star’ (Mt 2:10).

 

The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God who became one of us. This is what Saint Paul means when he writes to the Philippians: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near’ (Phil 4:4-5).

Our first reason for joy is the closeness of the Lord, who welcomes me and loves me.

An encounter with Jesus always gives rise to immense inner joy. We can see this in many of the Gospel stories. We recall when Jesus visited, a dishonest tax collector and public sinner, He said to him: ‘Today I must stay at your house’. Then, Saint Luke tells us, Zacchaeus ‘received Him with joy’ (Lk 19:5-6).

This is the joy of meeting the Lord. It is the joy of feeling God’s love, a love that can transform our whole life and bring salvation. Zacchaeus decides to change his life and to give half of his possessions to the poor.

At the hour of Jesus’ passion, this love can be seen in all its power. At the end of his earthly life, while at supper with his friends, Jesus said: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete’ (Jn 15:9,11).

Jesus wants to lead his disciples and each one of us into the fullness of joy that He shares with the Father, so that the Father’s love for him might abide in us (cf. Jn 17:26). Christian joy consists in being open to God’s love and belonging to Him.

The Gospels recount that Mary Magdalene and other women went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid after his death. An angel told them the astonishing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Then, the Evangelist tells us, they ran from the sepulchre, ‘fearful yet overjoyed’ to share the good news with the disciples. Jesus met them on the way and said: ‘Peace!’ (Mt 28:8-9). They were being offered the joy of salvation. Christ is the One who lives and who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and he will remain with us until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20).

Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious.

This deep joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s sons and daughters, capable of experiencing and savouring his goodness, and calling him ‘Abba’, Father (cf. Rm 8:15). Joy is the sign of God’s presence and action within us.

 

Adapted from message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the Twenty-Seventh World Youth Day 2012 15 March 2012,  the complete text of which is available at www.acnireland.org.

This article can be found in Mirror 0614.