“I have told you this so that My own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” (Jn.15:11)
Catholics could sometimes rightly be accused of appearing miserable. Indeed, Christians more broadly – including we Catholics – are often accused of being dour in perspective, of being ‘prophets of doom and gloom’ and of radiating a sense of misery. And that is just the oddest thing, as our faith is one of redemption and salvation – I’m not sure there is anything at all that could (or should) be a cause of greater joy. We certainly had reason to be miserable before the coming of the Lord – but not after.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about joy – His own, which He desires to share with us so that our joy may be complete. But sometimes, even if we know this in our hearts, we seem to forget to tell our faces this truth, and they continue to look miserable.
The liturgy is filled with this sense of joy – that is why we say ‘alleluia’ so often on Sundays, since we recall that the Lord is truly risen and that His death and resurrection are the sign that our faith in Him as our Saviour are well-placed. The Liturgy of the Hours proclaims –
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good,
for His love endures forever..
The Lord’s right hand has triumphed;
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount His deeds.” (Ps.117)
If we are to effectively ‘recount His deeds’ – that He died and rose again and in so doing, brought us redemption and salvation – then we need to look and sound as though we are aware of this and are happy about it. The other way to describe ‘recounting His deeds’ is to call it ‘evangelisation’. And we will never evangelise others by looking morose – how we present our faith to others reflects what we think of it and what we feel about it ourselves. Our words and our faces give us away.
We have so much to be thankful for – not only are we alive but we are redeemed by the gratuitous grace of God.
The ‘Benedictus’ (the Canticle of Zechariah from the first chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel) tells us –
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel!
He has visited His people and redeemed them.
He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour..”
And after the Canticle has spoken about the Lord, Zechariah then has something to say about each of us, offering an overview of the task we have been given and of how we are to go about it –
“As for you, little child,
you shall be called a prophet of God the Most High.
You shall go ahead of the Lord
to prepare His ways before Him,
to make known to His people their salvation
through forgiveness of all their sins,
the loving kindness of the heart of our God,
Who visits us like the dawn from on high.”
Ultimately, it is not about us or our knowledge of theology, or our wise words; rather it is about joy – the joy that emanates from us like a radiant interior light. And that radiant light is what will attract others to us and, through us, to the Lord. That light is nothing other than the grace of God active within us.
And the more deeply we encounter the Lord as a real and living person, the deeper we are in relationship with Him, the brighter that light will shine.