Sunday Gospel: Luke 3:10-18
HOW many times someone promised you something and you got disappointed? How many times you promised something to someone and you failed to deliver? In the gospel of John, Jesus promised to his disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” His promise is for his joy to be ours and that it will be full.
Is there a difference between happiness and joy? Is being happy different from being joyful? Today is Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice. This is the central theme in today’s Mass. Rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is near. Today the third pink candle is lighted to express the joy felt at the nearness of the Lord. We all want to be happy. Many of us make happiness our goal. But the more we want it and chase it, the more it seems to move away from us. We confuse it with what is more essential in life and so we end up chasing after the wrong things in life.
At this time of the year, let us meditate on the meaning of joy and the difference between joy and happiness. When we speak of happiness, it is often based on “happenings,” if things happen to go well, you are happy and if not your happiness is gone, too. Our happiness depends on our possessions. The more we have the more we feel and think we are happy and fulfilled.
This is our reality. Pope Francis said that “the emptier a person’s heart the more he/she wants to buy, to consume and to own.” This Advent and Christmas, let us fill our emptiness not with things but with Christ Jesus. The end or objective of happiness is the self but the happiness one feels is shallow, short, quick and fleeting. The difference with joy is that the source of joy is God making it last longer, forever even in the middle of struggles and challenges in life.
But what is the essence of Joy?
(1) Now. It is right now, the present. Many of us convince ourselves life will get better when we graduate, have jobs or when we get married and have children. Then we get frustrated when we have kids and want them to grow quickly. We tell ourselves our lives will get better if and when our wives or husbands change according to our demands. If and only when these happen, we are happy. There is no better time rejoice but now.
(2) Show it. Do you know who is the saint of joy, Saint Philip Neri is said to be the saint of joy and he is very serious in teaching joy. He said, if God loves you, and you know it, kindly inform your face.”
(3) Service. According to Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, joy will come to us if we set about actively trying to create it for others. Joy is the consequence not the goal.
Joy is always the by-product of something else. As the various versions of the Prayer of St. Francis put it, we can never attain joy, consolation, peace, forgiveness, love, and understanding by actively pursuing them. We attain them by giving them out. That’s the great paradox at the center of all spirituality and one of the great foundational truths within the universe itself: The air that we breathe out is the air we will eventually breathe back in.
Joy will come to us if we set about actively trying to create it for others.
Today’s gospel speaks about the coming of Jesus proclaimed by John the Baptist – and those who heard him started to asked him, “What must we do?” Let us ask ourselves the same question as we prepare for the coming of Jesus this Christmas in the light of our reflection on the meaning of joy.