The early 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 the Apostles (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 show our joy at home, at work, with friends? We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ and the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. But, being truly 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 sincere belief and love to others. Consider this quote from writer Cormac Burke: “A Christian who is not convinced he has the truth is not convinced he has Christ. 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 reinforces the call to be joyful in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “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 simple, but why do we struggle to do something that appears to be easy? 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, but as Romans 12:12 says: “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation.”
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 and fortitude to share his joy and the message of Christ to the Gentiles despite his suffering. We should follow his example today.
For Catholics, joy in the midst of extreme adversity is our obligation and our duty. But, remember that we are not alone. Our faith in Christ 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 tough challenges. 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. They may be 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 never be able to help anyone and may put our own salvation at risk.
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 what others are doing, 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 Jesus 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 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? I personally subscribe to the thinking of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York who said: “Being Catholic is not a heavy burden, snuffing the joy out of life; rather our faith in Jesus and His Church gives meaning, purpose and joy to life.” What are your suggestions and thoughts? Please share so we all can learn and grow together.