When I was about eight years old, my dad taught me how to play the guitar. I remember being extremely excited! He would carefully show me all the different chords, and how to move from one chord to the next. I remember the guitar being very big for me (I really had to stretch my arms) and that my fingers would be very sore, but as I kept practicing it got easier. At first, when I would strum, I would get all kinds of sounds that made us both laugh!! Learning to play guitar was one of my dreams… largely because I knew that it was something that my dad could teach me…and that he was happy to teach me.
When it comes to true Christian joy, that is something that Jesus shows us by the example of his very life. Jesus teaches us what Christian joy is, just like my dad taught me how to play guitar. It is the joy that is in Jesus’ glorified heart.
What do we mean by “Christian joy?” Jesus prays about it in the Gospel when He prays to His Heavenly Father: “I have made your name known to them…so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them…” (Jn 17:24). This type of joy comes when you know that you are completely loved by your Heavenly Father. Jesus knows He is loved by His Father. The love of the Father is so great for us that He wants all of us to be His sons and daughters. Through our Baptism God’s love and grace is poured into our hearts so that we can be docile in receiving the love and joy that God has for us. This grace and love grows in us as we receive the Eucharist with good dispositions.
According to St. John of the Cross there are two dimensions of the human personality: psychological and spiritual. In the psychological dimension which is in the lower part of the soul, we are able to experience in a profound way God’s love through everyday experiences and consolations that He grants us. In the spiritual dimension of the soul which is the higher part of the soul, we are able experience a joy that no one can take from us, even in the midst of sickness, persecution, failure, and rejection. A joy so real that we can honestly say we are living in the Holy Spirit. Christian joy is compatible with human suffering and sorrow meaning that someone who possesses Christian joy is able to have joy even in the midst of affliction and struggle. Just like when I would play guitar my fingers would get sore, I was still happy to play the guitar. The Saints, the real faces of joy, as they carried their cross securely were the most joyful people, yet they were the most afflicted. Love knows how to suffer and how to maintain peace in the Cross. The saints were able to rejoice in the Cross of the Lord because of their strong interior life and love for the Lord!
Pick a Saint, any Saint, and read about their life…what were some of their challenges/difficulties and how did they respond to them?
How did that Saint pray in the midst of trial and difficulty?
Jesus, through His life, death and Resurrection, communicates to us His Father’s love. Christian joy can turn into Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor; theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are they that mourn…” This true joy comes most explicitly when we realize that we are loved and wanted by God. As we grow in Christian joy the fruits of the Holy Spirit begin to take real shape in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, faith, self-control and chastity. Indeed, may these Fruits of the Holy Spirit bear Christ’s image in our souls!
In the upcoming blog posts, I think we are all finally ready to explore the various stages of the spiritual life namely a general overview of the purgative, illuminative, and unitive stages. We will also be talking about various topics that have to do with Religious Life…answers to questions that you have always wanted to know!!!!
It is going to be exciting!!!! Don’t miss it!!!!!