Tina Mayeux reflects on how we are to find our peace, hope, and joy in God alone, rather than the things of this world.
With the pandemic and the political and social climate wearing upon us, many people may have been feeling depressed or negative over the past year. However, we are reminded by Our Lord and the saints to be joyful of spirit and not to give in to sadness or despair. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) However, when things are difficult and we face hardships and trials, how do we continue to remain joyful amid sufferings? If we keep our eyes focused on Jesus throughout the day, we can more easily maintain a positive attitude and a joyful spirit. Looking to Our Lady and the saints can also inspire us to be joyful, even in our sorrows and sufferings.
In the Magnificat, found in Luke’s Gospel, Mary exclaims, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She expresses her thanksgiving and joy for the blessings and graces that the Lord has bestowed upon her. In her profound humility, Mary points to God as the source of her happiness, not to herself or the creatures or things of this earth. As Mary found her joy in God, so should we turn to Him to find meaning in our lives through our union with Him and through the tasks and mission that he gives to each of us individually.
Our daughter recently received the Sacrament of Confirmation at our parish, where Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi celebrated the Mass and administered the Sacrament. In his homily, he said that the Holy Spirit is not only manifested in extraordinary ways, but also can be found in the inner joy that we experience when we follow Christ and do His will in the little things, the everyday encounters we have with others and in our world. When we look to Christ for our happiness and call on the Holy Spirit, rather than attempting to find it in the world, we experience genuine joy, rather than a temporary satisfaction that this world gives.
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To be effective witnesses to the Gospel, it is necessary to put on a smile and share the love of Christ with everyone we meet, regardless of what may be going on in our lives. #catholicmom
The secret that the saints all knew was that perfect joy is found in God alone. This is how they were able to endure so many hardships, persecutions, and, for some, even martyrdom, all while still remaining full of hope and joy in Christ. We recently celebrated the Memorial of St. Philip Neri, who was known as the “patron saint of joy” because of his notable sense of humor and his humble and playful disposition. He was known for his holiness, but also for his ability to attract people to the Church through his own happiness and love for the gospel. St. Philip Neri is quoted as saying, “Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life; wherefore the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.” For those of us who struggle with a melancholic temperament and tend toward pessimism or sadness, this saint is an exemplary model and teacher of how to let go of negative thinking and to not take ourselves so seriously.
Another saint who stressed the importance of joy and cheerfulness in our Christian journey was St. Teresa of Ávila, who quipped, “God save us from gloomy saints!" She realized that to be effective witnesses to the Gospel, it is necessary to put on a smile and share the love of Christ with everyone we meet, regardless of what may be going on in our lives. Though this can be difficult at times, St. Teresa urged her sisters, and us today, to continue in love, trust, and courage, and, in this way, to find joy in God. She reminds us to abandon the pleasures of the world in order to grow in holiness and virtue, and, in this way, to find true joy. She is quoted as saying, “Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life. ... If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing.” According to St. Teresa, the things that we care so much about now in this life will seem insignificant when we reach Heaven.
If we are feeling depressed or negative, let us remember St. Paul’s prayer and wish:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
We all search for fulfillment in so many places in our lives. Let us remember that only in God will we find genuine joy, peace, and hope, and, in Him, we ultimately find our salvation.