As we celebrate the Risen Lord Jesus we should be experiencing great joy, an abundant joy, an overflowing joy, a radiant joy, and a contagious joy. The Antiphon that we pray frequently in Mass for the fifty days of the Easter Season is the following: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.”
Blessed Pope Paul VI penned a short but uplifting document on the topic of Joy: Gaudete In Domino—meaning, Rejoice in the Lord. This is taken from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians: Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord. Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. (Phil 4:5-6)
One of the most important documents of the Second Vatican Council, known as a Dogmatic Constitution is titled Gaudium et Spes—meaning Joy and Hope. Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Saint Pope John Paul II, was instrumental in the writing and publication of this document.
Pope Francis, the present reigning Pontiff, wrote an extraordinary missionary document for the modern world called The Joy of the Gospel. In this inspiring and motivational document, the Holy Father calls all of us to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world. The last words of Jesus before ascending into heaven were: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20) However, Pope Francis insists that the preaching of the Gospel and the bringing of many souls to Christ must be done through joy—the Joy of the Gospel. The most recent Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Rejoice and be glad, encourages all of us to be holy, to become saints (April 9, 2018). Jesus exhorts us: Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy. (Mt 5:48) Indeed the saints were truly happy and joyful for this simple reason: they were holy! Let us work on becoming saints!
Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta, one of the favorite modern saints and one of the greatest missionaries in the Catholic faith, insisted on bringing the joy of Jesus to the poor, the lonely, the suffering, and the abandoned with a radiating smile of joy.
Saint Philip Neri, the second Apostle of Rome, would carry with him a Bible, as well as a joke book. One of his classic expressions was Tristeza y melancholia fuori di casa mia—translation: May sadness and a melancholic spirit begone from my house.
Finally, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises, in the Contemplations in the last part of the Exercises dedicated to the contemplation of the Risen Lord Jesus, insists that we beg for the very special grace, and that is, the grace of JOY! However, not for a weak, opaque, anemic form of joy, but rather the most intense joy! In other words, not a few drops dripping from a weeping willow tree, but an immense ocean of joy—limitless because God Himself is beyond all limits! We have suffered intensely with Jesus; now it is the time to rejoice exultantly with Him in His Resurrection! This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!
Therefore, let us rejoice in the Lord and give a long list of reasons why our joy should be constant, complete, and contagious!
1. REJOICE IN THE LORD. It must be stated immediately that true joy, authentic joy can only come from our knowledge, contact, and union with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. We should never confuse joy with pleasure. The latter—that of pleasure—depends on external stimuli, circumstances in life and exterior happenings. Not so with joy! Actually, joy is one of the many fruits that come from our union with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is God, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity! Therefore, the deeper our union with God, the more constant and intense will we be able to experience true joy. Saint Paul exhorts us: Rejoice in the Lord; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord! (Phil 4:4)
2. FRIENDSHIP WITH JESUS. Jesus called the Apostles His friends. Come to the keen awareness that Jesus is truly your friend, and He is your best Friend. He is a friend who will never fail you. We may fail Him, but He will never fail us!
3. HEAVEN OUR TRUE HOME FOREVER! In the midst of the trials, pains, sufferings, contradictions, uncertainties, anxieties, and stresses of our short life on earth, we should never forget that our true and permanent abode is Heaven. We are mere wayfarers, pilgrims, travelers in this world heading to our eternal homeland. Try to recall the happiest day in your life, the happiest hour in your life, the happiest moment in your life. Multiply that happiness a million times and add eternity to the equation, and you have a mere glimpse of heaven! We can never fully imagine the immense joy of heaven. Saint Paul reminds us: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him. When you feel simply overwhelmed with the problems of life, remember that life passes quickly and heaven is forever. The Psalmist reminds us: Our life is like the flower of the field that rises in the morning and dies as the sun goes down!
4. FAITHFUL FRIENDS, ALWAYS PRESENT! How easy it is for us to forget the totality of the Communion of Saints. This consists of the Church Suffering, the souls in Purgatory; the Church Militant, we who are soldiers of Christ now fighting for our salvation; and also the Church Triumphant, that is to say, the saints who have won the battle and are now in heaven for all eternity! Get to know your friends the saints! Read a page or two from the life of a saint on a daily basis. Celebrate their Liturgical Feast Day with great joy. Call upon them as your friends. Try to imitate their virtuous lives. Invoke them constantly. Long to be with them in heaven one day forever and ever. Loneliness does exist, but those who have a keen and constant awareness of the saints suffer loneliness very little because they are in the company of that great Cloud of Witnesses—the saints in heaven who help us here in earth!
5. MERCY SUNDAY: THE PROMISE AND THE GIFT. Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever. What an exceedingly great gift that God through Holy Mother Church grants her children every year on the Sunday after Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. By making a good confession in Lent, Holy week, or Easter week, and then attending Holy Mass on Mercy Sunday and receiving Holy Communion with faith, love, and devotion, God gives us a totally new heart! All of our sins are washed clean and all the temporal punishment due for our sins expiated, and our soul becomes as white as the snow like on the very day that we were baptized! For this reason, our joy should have no limits!
6. GOD’S INFINTE AND CONSTANT MERCY. Related to the gift of Mercy Sunday is the awareness of God’s constant mercy. Indeed, God is the loving Father present in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Merciful Father). Even though the just man falls seven times a day, God always has His loving arms open to forgive if we can simply say: I am sorry! Pope Francis reminds us: God is always ready to forgive, but we are at times unwilling to ask for forgiveness!
7. PRAYER AND THE COUNTLESS BLESSINGS THAT FLOW FROM PRAYER. Prayer is the easiest thing in the world but also the most difficult! Easiest because it can be done in any time, any place, using any words; hardest, because the devil raises countless obstacles to prevent us from praying often and well! However, true joy should come to us from this reflection of Saint Peter of Alcantara on the effects of prayer: In mental prayer the soul is purified of its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, and strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident, temptation is conquered, sadness dispelled, the senses are renovated, the drooping powers revive, tepidity ceases, the rust of vices disappear. Out of mental prayer issues forth, like living sparks, those desires of heaven which the soul conceives when inflamed with the fire of divine love. Sublime is the excellence of mental prayer; great are its privileges; to mental prayer heaven is opened; to mental prayer heavenly secrets are manifested and the ear of God is attentive.” (The Ways of Mental Prayer, Rev. Dom Vitalis Lehodey, pages 26-27, Tan Publishers)
8. JOY IN GIVING UNTIL IT HURTS. True, this saying comes from Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta: Give until it hurts! Saint Paul expresses this truth in these words: There is more joy in giving than in receiving! Therefore, if you really want to experience joy, try to live out either the Corporal Works of Mercy or the Spiritual Works of Mercy. You will discover that the more you give of yourself, the more you sacrifice of your own comfort, the more you are willing to walk the extra mile, the more God will fill you with joy! Selfishness saps the joy in our heart; generous self-giving reinvigorates us with a super-abundant joy!
9. GOD’S GREAT GIFT TO THE CHURCH AND ITS MEMBERS: THE EUCHARIST! The mere thought of the reality of the Eucharist should fill you with an overflowing joy! Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament waiting for you, calling you, beckoning you to come visit Him: Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn from me who am meek and humble of heart. You will find rest for your soul for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mt 11:28-30) Still more, the thought that you can receive this Gift of all gifts into your heart in Holy Communion should fill you with an ecstatic joy! The saints lived with constant joy because they loved the Eucharist, visited the Blessed Sacrament, and received Jesus in Holy Communion with frequency, faith, and great fervor of soul! Make a decision now: daily Mass and Holy Communion, whenever possible!
10. MARY: OUR LIFE, OUR SWEETNESS, AND OUR HOPE—CAUSE OF OUR JOY!!! After he died, Saint Dominic Savio appeared to his guide and spiritual director Saint John Bosco. Bantering a bit with Bosco, Savio invited Saint John Bosco to guess what brought Savio the greatest joy when he was alive on earth. Saint John Bosco guessed several times, but without success! Finally, Saint John Bosco asked Savio what brought him, while on earth, the greatest joy??? Saint Dominic Savio responded: his great love and devotion to Mary! Then he encouraged Saint John Bosco to spread devotion to Mary far and wide. Saint Therese on one occasion got very sick. She had great devotion to Mary and there was a certain statue of Mary that she prayed to constantly. Overwhelmed by this sickness, Saint Therese looked up to this statue of Mary, and Mary smiled at her! The Little Flower was instantly healed of her sickness! So it must be with us! Let us consecrate ourselves to Mary, talk to Mary, entrust ourselves to Mary, get others to know and love Mary, and give ourselves totally to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Indeed, Mary is our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
In conclusion we invite all people of good will to beg for that very special gift—free of charge—that God the Holy Spirit truly wants to fill you with, fill you to the brim, and that is the gift of JOY! Once you are filled with that joy of Easter, the joy of the Risen Lord, the joy that is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, then give that joy to the whole world. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!!!