By FATHER JOHN CATOIR, Commentary | Published April 9, 2009
God wants you to be happy, even though life is filled with misery. There will always be crosses, and yet we are called to live joyfully.
St. Paul helps us to master the Christian faith by understanding the relationship between God’s love for us and the trials we have to endure in this world. He suffered mightily in his day, yet he commanded us to “rejoice always”!
We all suffer physical and emotional pain of some sort: Our bodies ache, people disappoint and abuse us, financial woes engender fear in us, and yet we are still called to live joyfully.
I write about joy all the time, and I suppose I get on the nerves of some people, but I feel driven by the Holy Spirit!
Occasionally St. Paul felt driven to boast about his many trials for the glory of God, and I feel that need right now.
In my Army days, I fired an M-1 rifle for endless hours on a practice range. I was an MP, and the company commander wanted us to fire expertly. This bombardment of noise left me with a fierce buzzing in my ears to this day. I cope by uniting my inner buzzing with the song the angels sing before the Lord. My tinnitus is no longer my enemy, but has become my friend, enabling me to pray without ceasing.
I have ulcerative colitis, and my 77-year-old arthritic knees give me fits. I’m a cancer survivor, so far that is, and I suffer from cardiac asthma. And yet, I get through it all by following St. Paul’s advice to thank God “in all circumstances.”
St. Paul’s advice has kept me sane. All of my little miseries are under control with medication. I love my life and my vocation. I love to write, which is a vocation within a vocation, and I especially enjoy maintaining my Web site (www.messengerofjoy.com), which offers help on being more joyful.
How do we know that God loves us?
It’s simple really. Jesus Christ told us to call God “our Father.” Doesn’t every father want his children to be happy?
That’s why St. Paul said, “Rejoice always. … In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5:16, 18).
St. Paul took this magnificent idea from Jesus, who at the Last Supper said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).
Pope John Paul II confirmed it: “Christ came to bring joy: joy to children, joy to parents, joy to families and to friends, joy to workers and to scholars, joy to the sick and to elderly, joy to all humanity. In a true sense joy is the keynote of the Christian message and the recurring motif of the Gospels. … Be messengers of joy.”
Our response ought to be, “I will delight and rejoice in you” (Ps 9:3).
What about the cross?
When Jesus told us to “love one another as I have loved you,” he led us to the cross. Wherever there is love, there is service; wherever there is service, there is sacrifice; and wherever there is sacrifice there is suffering.
Joy and the cross are not contradictory but complementary.
Jesus knew that the only way to find true joy was to empty oneself in loving others.
“The greatest honor you can give to almighty God is to live joyfully because of the knowledge of his love” (Julian of Norwich).