Raise your hand if you want to be happy. Fully, completely happy. I see many raised hands, maybe because after all, being happy is everyone’s desire.
Is it appropriate to say that everyone who desires this joy is actually experiencing it? Are we truly happy and are we surrounded by people who are equally happy? Can we also say that everything we do is always aimed at this happiness?
I recall my adolescent years, when the pursuit of joy was truly my motivation, the reason I chose to do or not to do something. If I was not convinced that something would make me truly happy, then I wouldn’t do it, because I perceived it as a waste of time. Walking aimlessly downtown with my classmates, checking out shops or guys? No, thanks! Going out at night just to hang out?
Nope! “Well, c’mon, you were already living like a nun as a teenager,” one might say. No, that’s not true!
Yes, I certainly enjoyed spiritually related things. But I also enjoyed getting up early to contemplate the sunrise, hiking in the mountains with my friends, or watching a game of Juventus, my favorite soccer team. Or again, planning pranks or funny games with my friends, or relatives, or the kids from the parish. I desired to live life with enthusiasm. “To live and not just to get by” was the motto of my hero, Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati, which soon also became mine.
I like to think that this applies to everyone: joy is a profound desire of the human heart, the motivation for a life that is worth living. “You ask me if I am happy; and how could I not be? For as long as faith gives me strength, I will always be happy. A Catholic cannot be unhappy; sadness should be banned from the souls of Catholics” (Bl. Piergiorgio Frassati).
I believe that this is a fitting prophecy for our times: to be witnesses of joy. In a world that has everything, yet nothing is enough, where we rush to and fro but are unable to slow down and appreciate the gift of life, where we are all plugged in but unable to communicate in a way that is human, natural, simple and spontaneous — yes, in this world we must be even more joyful people.
I treasure the lyrics of a hymn by Msgr. Frisina: “True joy is born of peace. True joy does not consume the heart; it is like fire that with its heat gives life to a heart that is dying. True joy liberates the heart, and makes of you a song to be sung in freedom.” How beautiful this joy, this authentic peace that liberates the heart.
This is what the Lord desires for us. He tells us so in the Gospel of John: “I have told you this, so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
How we do find the secret of this true joy? A simple reason might suffice to set us on our quest. We don’t just desire a little bit of joy, because it wouldn’t satisfy us. We want more. We desire a joy that has no end. How can we satiate such a desire? Could an object, a job, a vacation, improved social status, or a relationship truly fill it? We can safely answer ‘no,’ simply because all of these things are finite, limited and therefore intrinsically unable to fully respond to a desire that is infinite in its nature. Only that which is infinite can fulfill the desire for joy and happiness that belongs to the human heart. You don’t need to be a philosopher to draw a logical conclusion that leads to understand and accept what Scripture says “Seek joy in the Lord, and He will fulfill your heart’s desires” (Psalm 36:4). And yet again “In your will is my joy” (Psalm 118:16).
True joy abides in God. It means to remain in this love that created us, and in whom and by whom we are kept in existence. I would like to suggest you to reflect on it every morning when you get up and look at yourself in the mirror: I am alive and I did not do a thing to receive this gift yet again today. When I went to bed last night I did not have the absolute certainty that I’d wake up today and yet, without any merit or effort on my part, and despite my many imperfections of yesterday, I am gifted another day. The same God who loved us since we were in our mother’s womb (pray with Psalm 139 to recognize this special grace) is the one who is always with us, who does not change his view of us, who cannot even do so! This is the reality of the One who says “as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love!” (Jn. 15:9).
Here is the explanation of the only possible source of TRUE joy.
Each of us has experienced it in the gaze of a friend, in the smile of a child, in a mother who gives of herself to each of her children, in the priest that looks into your eyes as he offers the Father’s forgiveness, in the humble and faithful worker who offers his labor every day … I invite you to continue your own list of the faces of Joy you have encountered in your life.
The Apostle of the Interior Life desires to be a witness of this joy because she knows she is loved and she desires to spread true peace to every person she encounters. Had we not been called Apostles of the Interior Life, we could have maybe been called Apostles of Joy. I recall a conversation that gifted me with one of the best compliments we sisters ever received: “Sister, I know you don’t technically wear a habit, but I believe you actually do”. “Uhm…?” said my puzzled look… “Your joy is your habit!” We are proud of our habit then! Joy is not smiling at all times or faking it even when things are difficult. Joy does not mean ignoring difficulties or displaying an unrealistic optimism that is devoid of reality. It is neither the attitude of those who always seem to have it all figured out and under control, which only seems to be available in TV shows.
Joy is the truth of those who have understood life. They know that life is eternal and that the life we live here on earth is only the beginning, and that they need to stay grafted onto the Eternal. Joy is the choice of keeping our eyes fixed on what is above and letting nothing fog our vision. The Lord, the giver of joy said “I am with you always, until the end of time” (Mt 28:20). Joy should then be our daily bread. Yet we often lament that we don’t feel God near us, that we don’t think he’s truly there. Could God possibly lie? Someone once asked this pointed question that left me stunned: “God says that He is near, but you feel that He is far away. Who do you think actually moved, Him or you?”
May Mary, the Mother of Joy accompany us. Her “yes” allowed her to receive the Source of joy in her Immaculate Heart, making of her the model and the companion of our journey.
Think of an area of your life in which you have not yet allowed the Joy of God to enter. May you be able to open your heart to receive it.