It is a daily question that creates a drive in us to get out of bed and take on the challenges of a new week. Mondays have the potential for stress or joy. We often engage each Monday morning with the stress of what “has to be accomplished” before another weekend. Today, being a holiday, we can enjoy a bit of reflection, “What brings us joy?”
I feel I should warn you; I think joy is not synonymous with happiness. Many things can bring us joy that don’t make us necessarily happy. I often think of athletes who spend hours and hours in grueling practices just to perfect one moment of play. I doubt any athlete considers this happiness, but the joy that perfecting ‘that free throw’ is worth the grueling effort. On the other hand, we can be happy when a surprise bonus check arrives from our boss, but that happiness is short-lived once we spend the extra money, or the taxes come due. So, today I ask you, “What brings you JOY?”
The Lord said to his disciples, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will." – Luke 10.16-21
In today’s Gospel reading, you get the sense of what I’m suggesting. The Seventy Apostles were happy that demons were subject to them. I suspect I would be happy about that also, but the happiness can fade when the demons return. The demons always return to try again. They are persistent, so Christ says, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this…but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
When we were baptized, our names were written in the Book of Life. We were granted a guardian angel to watch over us. We were united to Christ. NONE of these gifts will ever fade away, and that should be the source of our joy. Unfortunately, too many people turn to any number of other sources searching for joy. It may be money, power, popularity, drugs, alcohol, even physical beauty, but these all fade away and we are left empty.
Some say our society is the most medicated society in history with rates of depression, suicide, and substance abuse higher than ever before. At the same time, humanity has achieved greater wealth, health, and mutual prestige than ever before. Living in such an ‘advanced’ society, we should be filled with joy. I would suggest that we are not filled with joy because these things don’t last. Money is spent, and everyone eventually dies, and prestige is as stable as an elephant walking a tight rope.
At any moment, everything can and will collapse. Our soul knows this to be true, so it continues to search for the only thing that will bring it joy. Only God can bring joy that never fades. Only God can provide us with spiritual comfort that never ends. Rejoice in knowing you are united to Christ in baptism. Then, like a professional athlete, spend the time necessary to perfect the relationship between you and God. It might require grueling effort, but it will bring joy.