Rejoice!

Dear Folks,Today is Gaudete Sunday, and Gaudete means “rejoice.” We read from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice (Phil 4:4).”So, what does that mean? Does that mean that faithful Christians will always be in a good mood, and that sadness, anger, discouragement, and grief are permanently banished from our lives? Clearly not. Anticipating His crucifixion, Jesus said that “my soul is sorrowful, even unto death (See Matt 26:38).” When His friend Lazarus died, “Jesus wept (John 11:35).” All of Matthew 23 is a testament to Jesus’ capacity for anger and sorrow.So where does that leave us? Let’s consider that moods and feelings are passing states, and they all have their place. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for each of them “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4).” St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).”Christianity does not shield us from the sorrows, angers, and frustrations of life. In fact, we may feel them more keenly, since we have this powerful vision of what Goodness truly is.The story is told of one woman who tearfully told her friend that she never knew her husband drank until one night he came home sober. We do not realize just how bad evil is until we encounter the one who is Goodness Itself. Furthermore, in opening our hearts to the fullness of God’s gifts, we open them to suffering at the same time. Some people protect their hearts by not caring about anything. C. S. Lewis said in “The Four Loves” that “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” Jesus said, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt 5:4).”To be a person of joy involves believing that in the midst of sorrows, our life is overall worth doing, and good will conquer evil. Victor Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” gives a powerful explanation that when our suffering has meaning, that makes all the difference. (If you haven’t read that book, it is worth taking a look at. I wouldn’t call it fun, but its wisdom is precious.). Our faith puts our suffering in a larger context, in which it has meaning, and cannot destroy our hope. If our hope is based on anything in this world, then we never know if it will be crushed by circumstance. If our faith is in God, then heaven and earth can pass away, but our hope will endure.Our feelings come and go. Even when they seem overwhelming and crushing, we know, we remember, that they will pass. Good and evil are not evenly matched opponents, so when it seems that evil is winning, we know that such a perception comes from only seeing a small part of the picture. As we “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep,” we remain grounded in the confidence that weeping will pass away and the victory of joy iseternal.Blessings and joy,Fr. Jim

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