The first Christians had the good fortune to be the first to share the Good News. Imagine the joy they felt in sharing Christ’s message of love to everyone. They stood out as happy in a suffering world, just as Christians have an opportunity to do so today. Jesus promised them (and us) this joy at the Last Supper when he said in John 16:22: “So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” Do we reflect joy at home, at work, with friends? We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ, His divine grace, our families and countless other wonderful things. But, being joyful should lead to sharing that joy and the ability to express the truths of our faith in a way that shows the depth of our belief and love to others. Consider this quote from the writer C. Burke in In Conversation with God: “Only convinced Christians have any chance of convincing others. Half-convinced Christians won’t even half-convince anybody. They won’t convince at all.”
Saint Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 5:16-18 that we should “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” He makes it sound easy, but why do we struggle to do something that seems so easy and that we should truly want to do? We all deal with various forms of adversity. Some of us are unemployed, some are dealing with illness and others are struggling with relationship or financial problems. The current sex abuse crisis in the Church and the unwarranted attacks on Pope Benedict have made many Catholics gloomy and frightened. These are real obstacles to joy and they must be acknowledged.
As tough as things may be, Catholics have work to do for Christ. Like the early Christians, we too are called to share the Good News. Do you recall that in the life of St. Paul he was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, starved and stoned? He showed incredible courage to share his joy and the message of Christ to the Gentiles and we must show the same courage today.
For we Catholics, joy in the midst of extreme adversity is our obligation, our duty. Remember that we are not alone. Our faith in Christ as our Redeemer and our devotion in the Sacraments that bind us to Him will see us through the tough times and help us share a joy which will not evaporate in the face of adversity. Be encouraged by our Lord’s words in John 16:33: “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”
It is so easy to get lost in our problems and forget to be joyful-it happens to me and just about everyone else I know. But, remember that we are surrounded by people who are watching us. People who are seeking Him and looking for someone, anyone, to show them the way to Christ. They could learn from our good example, be inspired by our joy and be encouraged by our faith journey if we will only remember that we are called to share the Good News. If we are gloomy, frustrated, inward-focused and critical of the Church we will not be able to help anyone draw closer to Christ.
Let me leave you with four simple actions which I try to follow in my desire to be joyful. This is by no means the definitive list and I would love to learn your thoughts and ideas on this subject, but here is what often works for me:
- Surrender to Christ every day and recommit to putting Him first in all areas of my life.
- Give up my burdens to the Lord in daily prayer. I can’t do it alone and I need His help!
- Be thankful for my blessings. I can dwell on my problems or I can focus on all of the incredible blessings in my life and express my gratitude in daily prayer.
- Start with the end in mind. Will Jesus be able to say to me one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Are my actions each day serving Him?
Do you find it difficult or easy to share your joy? What are your suggestions and thoughts? Please share so we all can learn and grow together.
Thank you and God bless!