These are uncertain and troubling times in our nation and world – even a cursory glance at the headlines reveal that. Speaking of joy might seem naïve. Yet joy is not a happy-go-lucky, carefree attitude or a Pollyanna-ish perky positivity ungrounded in reality.
Ultimately, joy is not something that we can manufacture from within ourselves. Joy comes from the Holy Spirit, as we are reminded in Galatians 5:22. In Jesus’ last discourse, he speaks tenderly to his disciples: “these things I have spoken to you, so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full” (Jn 15:11). Immediately before Jesus suffered and died, he gathered those he loved and spoke of the fullness of joy! Clearly, the joy Jesus spoke of can coexist with pain and suffering.
“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts,” wrote Wendell Berry in his poem “Manifesto: the Mad Farmer Liberation Front.” As Christians committed to the common good, with a particular concern for those who are most vulnerable, we must “consider all the facts,” which are often deeply discouraging. At this same time, we cultivate an openness to evangelical joy within ourselves and our communities.
Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin stated that “joy is an infallible sign of the presence of God.” Where in your life do you experience joy and become aware of God’s presence?