Joy is one of the most elusive of all human experiences. You can’t catch it when you want it and you lose it even when you are already touching it with your fingertips. But when one gives up chasing it, it alights on one’s soul, like a butterfly, and changes the world for that person; the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the drab colorful and the workaday special. And one is taken aback, always in surprise, because joy comes when you least expect it.
Joy can come from many sources, most of which are ordinary and simple. Joy can come from a smile, a kind word, the sunrise after a nightlong rain, a flower that blooms, a long-lost friend met in a busy thoroughfare, a good meal, a moment of recognition. Sometimes, it also comes from silence. But joy comes, it does come.
The only condition is that one must be ready and open to welcome joy. One must never lose sense of wonderment and awe, the capacity for surprise and playfulness, and an open heart for appreciation. Joy does not come to those who have turned stiff or to those who have remained but superficial. Joy comes when we are most childlike.
Joy comes to everyone; but it can fill us only by the amount of space we give it in our hearts. Strangely, our hearts have been created by God not just with the capacity for joy; God has put in them also the longing and the yearning for it. The human heart is ever longing to be filled with joy.
The joke, however, is that when we focus our attention on the absence of joy in our hearts and if we spend our energies to fill that absence, we will never be truly joyful. On the contrary, our awareness of the absence of joy intensifies. The least joyful persons are those who spend a great deal of time and energy seeking joy. They drive themselves chasing joy but joy is always a step ahead of them, so near yet so far.
Joy is a gift of God. There are many things in life that cannot be appeased by things material – they help, but only temporarily and artificially. There are many things in the human heart that, humanly speaking, cannot be erased. Can a man who has betrayed his friend or loved one be ever at peace? Can a sinner be ever joyful as long as he lives in guilt? Joy is God’s gift because joy is what comes when our guilt is taken away.
Joy is an integral part of our relationship to God, the source of all good and all happiness, and is the fruit of all his revelation. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11). The closer we are to the Kingdom of God, the more intense our sharing in the rejoicing that is an essential action of the Divine nature. The Saints experience more joy on earth than others do because they are closer to God and more open to the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. A mark of great holiness is the ability to find joy in the most unpromising circumstances, to rejoice in deprivation, pain, and sacrifice.
“So brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world. That is, rejoice in the Truth, not in wickedness; rejoice in the hope of Eternity, not in the fading flower of vanity. That is the way to rejoice. Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything!” – St. Anthony of Egypt
Laudetur Jesus Christus!
TLM Society of San Francisco