“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” comes from St. Paul in the book of Philippians 4:4 and it happens to be the theme for the upcoming World Youth Day 2012…who even knew there was one of those? I guess it’s a sort of launching pad to the REAL BIG World Youth Day in Rio coming up summer of 2013. I can only HOPE to be in Rio, we shall see what God has planned first. Anyone else plan things and think they hear God gently laughing sometimes? Not in a mean way but in one of those “I am omnipotent and you aren’t so you don’t even know all the craziness that will occur in your life between now and that huge plan you just made” kind of ways. Well I have heard it too often, probably since I try to plan way too much way too prematurely, but I have learned to sit back and WAIT for God to move first. That way I don’t have to put my foot in my mouth so often when I realize what I said I would do is different from what God asked me to do 🙂
So, rants about listening to God aside, the Pope sent out a baller email this morning. I get the Pope’s emails every morning in my inbox, cool huh? Updates about his past day and talks he gave or about things he will be doing in the near future. It’s not really written by the Pope but I like to think it is…sounds more legit. You can actually get them too, by visiting the Vatican’s website and signing up! He spoke about JOY today and it inspired me deeply. Often I feel like society looks at Christians with sympathy…like we are missing out on something. These words reminded me that it’s actually the other way around. JOY, lasting joy that is eternal is what we all look for and NOTHING this side of Heaven will ever scratch that itch fully except God. I can only hope you find the same within his truthful statements! I won’t even comment any longer, since his words are so much better than my thoughts on joy!
1. Our hearts are made for joy
“A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. … This is particularly true for you, because youth is … a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans. … Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. … How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?”
2. God is the source of true joy
“Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, He is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love Him. … God wants us to share in His own divine and eternal joy, and He helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by Him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God”.
“God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in Him. … The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God Who became one of us. … Christ is the One Who lives and Who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and He will remain with us until the end of the world. Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious”.
3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts
“The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow Him and to stake our whole life on Him. … Joy is the fruit of faith. … Learn to see how God is working in your lives. … Turn your eyes to Him often. He gave His life for you on the cross because He loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy”.
“To seek the Lord and find Him in our lives also means accepting His word. … God’s word reveals the wonders that He has accomplished throughout human history. … The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ”.
4. The joy of love
“Joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. … To love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. … If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. … Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. … I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. … Do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that He fills with joy all those who respond to His invitation. … In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family. … A third element that will lead you to the joy of love … is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities”.
5. The joy of conversion
“Experiencing real joy also means recognising the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. … Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness”.
“God wants us to be happy. That is why He gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the Commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the Commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. … At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in His mercy never abandons us; He always offers us the possibility of returning to him. … Have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the Sacrament of joy rediscovered”.
6. Joy at times of trial
“In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. … We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations.
“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati experienced many trials during his short life. … When Blessed John Paul II presented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life”. Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano, who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. … Authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life”.
7. Witnesses of joy
“To conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. … Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus Himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away”.
“Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in His hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to Him. Show the world that this is true!”