Have you ever had a moment where you were so overwhelmed with happiness? Maybe it was when you went on that trip that you always wanted to go on. Perhaps it was the day you received your university degree after many years of intense study. Maybe it was the moment that you held your newborn baby for the first time. Perhaps it was the day you got married to your high school sweetheart. If you are a priest, I am sure it was the day you were ordained and celebrated your first Mass. If you are a Consecrated Religious, perhaps it was the day of your entrance, and final profession day. We all have moments where we experience great heights of happiness and joy. If we were to have asked St. Mary Magdalene what her moment of overwhelming happiness was… I am sure she would say it was the moment at the tomb when Jesus said “Mary!”
When we read the Resurrection account, we hear that Mary did not recognize Jesus at first. Overcome with grief that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, Mary could not recognize the Lord. But when he said her name “Mary” (John 20:16) she was overwhelmed with great joy and did only what any woman would do…she wanted to embrace Him. Hearing her name proclaimed by Jesus, was enough to fill every part of her with exceedingly great joy.
Do we hear the Lord calling our name?
Do we hear God call us His sons and daughters?
Is Jesus our joy? Do we find our joy in the risen Christ?
St. John of the Cross in his many works speaks about the joy that comes from being in union with God. Christian joy is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When someone has joy, they are consciously aware of possessing good which is the fundamental desire of the heart. Blessed Pier Giorgio once said, “You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be so? As long as faith gives me strength I will always be joyful.”
There are two elements of joy: possessing a good and a conscious awareness. To love or desire the good is not enough. We need to foster the virtue of thanksgiving to God. Many times we do not realize how much we have been given. We are downcast at times because we are pursuing things that are lower than God. But God has given us so much! He has given us His very self especially evident when we meditate on His Passion and He gives Himself to us in the sacraments especially the Eucharist.
Conscious awareness of joy is necessary! St. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Mary Magdalene and the Apostles are not joyful until they know that Jesus is risen from the dead! Joy comes once they know that Jesus is risen from the dead. We need to foster an awareness of all the gifts God has given us with a spirit of gratitude.
Finally, joy is a choice…like love. Joy is certainly the fruit of love. For this reason, we can be joyful even in the midst of the cross. St. John of the Cross says, “if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.” Spiritual joy comes when we are aware through Faith of God’s gifts even in the midst of the Cross.
Joy is so fundamental in the spiritual life! We are called to be a people of joy! Living the Gospel is a life of joy! Let us go forth and proclaim that Jesus is Risen!