Can you remember a time you felt real joy?
I don’t mean when you heard a good joke recently. Or had some personal pleasure satisfied. Or felt a passing sense of momentary bliss. Fun, laughter, simply being happy … true joy that Jesus means can include all of these experiences. And the kind of holy joy he wants us to share is a deeper condition and enduring orientation of the heart.
The night before he died, Jesus urges the disciples to abide in God’s love like branches on the vine. And to bear fruit of that love with others, “so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.” Of course, we know what came next for him. The cross. And we know our lives can seem to lack love. We hear hurtful jokes. We get bad news. We have needs unsatisfied, experiences far from fun, bliss, and happiness. Surely, it’s not hard for us to remember suffering in our lives, or feel for others in our society. I wonder if we’re able to receive real joy precisely because we’ve known some kind of fear, sorrow, tragedy, struggle, loss. We savor the sweetness of Sacred Love even more, because we’ve tasted sour bitterness. And we long for another bite of that divine delicacy.
Jesus urges us to keep sharing that love and abiding in his life. You see, ultimately Holy Joy arises in relationships of human love. In giving we receive. In serving others more than ourselves we receive satisfaction far exceeding momentary pleasure. In sacrifice we are raised with Christ to new life with God in ways perhaps unimaginable before. “So that my joy may be in you …” Jesus said. And so it is when we pass along to others, in that same Spirit, the promises and power of abiding love. Holy Joy is complete, occasionally tasted and fulfilled when we share the fruits of living faith with others.
The desire for this relationship, the longing for this experience of life seems to be part of holy joy itself. Even when we’re in the darkest and most difficult times of life, we can gratefully remember love we’ve shared. We can set our hearts on hoping, longing, seeking, living to know that experience again. We can trust God’s desire for us and not despair. We can look for signs of resurrection. We can savor all the fruits faithfulness in the Risen Christ that flow from love and joy: peace, patience, kindness, generosity.
Can we remember a time we tasted real joy? I hope so. I pray our longing for it will continue. And that we’ll share it with others.
Grace and Peace,