Joy is a slippery thing. It's one of those concepts that's really hard to come up with a definition for, but we know it when we see it. I want to touch on what I think joy is (and more importantly, where it comes from). It's not something that we'll find in the pleasures of our materialistic world, but rather in the places we might least expect. Joy is all around us, we just need to know how to seek it out.
So what is joy? We should probably define this thing. Joy, as defined by catholicculture.org, is the feeling brought about by the expectation or possession of some good. Pretty simple, right? Now, something you'll hear pretty frequently are comparisons between joy and pleasure (aka happiness). What's the difference?
Here it is: pleasure and happiness originate from bodily sensation. When we eat good food, it causes a pleasant sensation (good taste). When we crawl under a soft, warm blanket, it causes a pleasant sensation (warmth, softness). When we sit down after a hard workout, it causes a pleasant sensation (release of tension, soothing). Are you starting to see the pattern here?
Happiness and pleasure stem from biological responses. They're not bad, though! On the contrary, pleasure is something that God gave us to show us just how good He can be. It's not everything, however, and it can easily be abused. Joy is different. Joy is confusing and tough to pin down. Joy is the single realest emotion that we can feel.
Saint Francis has one of the best explanations of joy on the market. There's a story of him walking with Brother Leo, one of the friars in his community, where he talks about joy in great detail. He goes through a laundry list of things that are NOT perfect joy. From being able to speak all languages, to having the gift of prophecy, to curing the sick and even raising the dead, Francis touches on many things that we might think would bring us joy!
What IS perfect joy, according to Francis, is much simpler. He says that "bearing all injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the suffering of our Blessed Lord" is true, perfect joy. Kind of counter-intuitive! According to Saint Francis, joy is not power or wealth or pleasure or comfort or anything worldly. He says that joy is being able to roll with the punches, accept suffering as our cross, and still find solace in the knowledge that Christ is there for us and loves us dearly. And you know what? He's absolutely right.
One thing that brings me great joy at the moment is our Next Generation of Disciples (NGD) youth group! We've had four meetings so far, and grown over 150% in just one month! I am so blessed to call this a "job." At our meeting last week, we were speaking about sharing our faith with others, and Fr. Federico said something I absolutely loved.
To share your faith with others, you need joy! People won't believe what you're saying if you haven't bought into it yourself. What Father said that I loved so much is that "joy can't be faked. It has to be real. If we were sitting here, talking about stuff we didn't really believe, you'd see right through us!" I couldn't have said it better myself, so why try? That is so true. Joy cannot be faked, manufactured, or copied. It has to be obtained the real way, the hard way (the way that's worth it).
Joy can be tough to let into our lives sometimes! There's always a temptation to resist suffering and take comfort in worldly pleasures. But when someone is truly joyful, it's unmistakable and amazing. It's like they glow with the light of Christ. I don't know about you, but that's the kind of person I want to be! I pray that you will let joy flood every aspect of your life this Lent, and take comfort in the knowledge that our God loves us more than anything else in this world.
God Bless you,