More than simply an emotion we experience from time to time, joy is a virtue each of us is called to receive from God and cultivate in our lives for the good of others. Christian joy is rooted in an awareness of God’s unconditional love. When we experience God’s love and live out our lives as a response to that love, then we are truly joyful people.
On the evening before His Passion, our Lord reminded His closest disciples, “I have told you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn. 15:11). Jesus told His disciples about the suffering He would endure and their mission to carry on the work He had begun. After washing their feet, Jesus gave them the new commandment to love one another as He loved them. He encouraged them by promising that He would send the Holy Spirit to support, teach and guide them. He warned that they would face difficulties, challenges and rejection by the world. But Jesus told His disciples these things so they might share in His joy, a joy unlike anything the world could provide.
Even on the eve of His suffering and death, Jesus possessed deep joy because He remained intent on freely fulfilling the will of His heavenly Father. Jesus trusted in the Father’s plan for His life, and He knew that fulfilling that would bring Him the most satisfaction.
Everything Jesus teaches us is directed at leading us closer to God and helping us to know God’s plan for our lives. Jesus’ teachings show us who we are and what God calls us to be. They mark out the path we are to follow to reach our fulfillment as human beings created in God’s image. Even when we struggle along the way, God never tires of picking us up and putting us back on the road of discipleship.
Our joy is rooted in this hope of God’s never-failing love for us. Joy is a virtue that rests deep in our souls, but which we are meant to share with others. Unfortunately, we live in a world that, despite all the means of communication available to us, is becoming more and more hostile to genuine human encounter and mutual support.
Pope Francis began his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, saying, “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers, too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ” (EG 2).
The joy which fills our heart as we receive God’s love for us is given to us precisely to be given away. Christians who share their joy make great contributions to the world by giving firm testimony to the love of God for all people.
November’s Catholic liturgies foster our contemplation of eternity. We celebrate All Saints’ Day and commemorate all the faithful departed on All Souls’ Day. The readings of the Sunday Masses offer reflections on the end times and God’s promise of salvation for those who place their trust in Him. Glancing toward eternity, we are filled with joy at the prospect of all God has in store for us. This is a fitting month, then, to renew our awareness of God’s great love. The Lord sends us out to be His joyful witnesses, confident in His grace and mercy, giving to a suffering world the hope of divine love.