Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter – Jn 16:20-23
Today’s Gospel centers on the theme of joy, and particularly the connection between joy and anguish or suffering. Usually when we think of joy and suffering, we think that they are mutually exclusive, or that they at least impede each other. However, notice exactly what Christ says: He says that the although the Apostles “will grieve, [their] grief will become joy.”
It’s not merely a replacement, but a transformation of that sorrow into joy. Part of the reason this can happen is because this joy that Christ is referring to isn’t merely earthly or human joy. It’s something supernatural, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, which we can see, first, in the words themselves: this Greek word for joy, χαρά (khar-ah’), and the word for grace, χάρις (khar’-ece), come from the same root. True joy is rooted in God and particularly in His infinite love for us, and in the case of Christian joy, the Holy Spirit raises up in us an expectation or an imperfect possession of God in this life. If we know where we’re headed, if we know that infinite joy that awaits us, then the nearer we draw to God, the more joyful we become. No matter how difficult or challenging circumstances that surround us, we can be joyful with a joy that stems from grace and from a love of God that makes us see all things in light of His goodness and mercy, a joy that entirely transforms the way we see things.
A good example of this is Saint Therese of Lisieux. In his book, Interior Freedom, Fr. Jacques Philippe recounts how once he was able to enter into the Carmelite cloister where Therese lived. He was able to see “the actual place where Therese lived: the infirmary, the cloister, the laundry, the garden with the chestnut-tree avenue – all places that [he] knew from the saint’s description of them in her writings.” And yet, as he writes: “One thing struck me: these places were much smaller than I could have imagined. For example, at the end of her life Therese gives a good-humored account of the sisters dropping by to have a little chat with her on their way to make hay; but the great hayfield I had pictured to myself is in reality a mere pocket-handkerchief! This unremarkable fact, the smallness of the places where Therese lived, made me think a lot. I realized what a tiny world, in human terms, she inhabited: a little provincial Carmelite convent, not outstanding for its architecture, a minuscule garden; a small community composed of religious sisters whose upbringing, education, and manner often left much to be desired. . . . However . . . when you read Therese’s writings you never get the impression of a life spent in a restricted world, but just the opposite. [She] lives in very wide horizons, which are those of God’s infinite mercy and her unlimited desire to love him. She feels like a queen with the whole world at her feet, because she can obtain anything from God, and, through love, she can travel to every point in the globe where a missionary needs her prayer and sacrifices. . . . Of course, she speaks of suffering, the monotony of sacrifice, but all of that is overtaken and transfigured by the intensity of her inner life.”
When we live united to God, confident in His love for us and that He is preparing an eternal dwelling where we will remain with Him forever, then we become partakers in His joy and our lives are transformed. If we notice that joy missing from our lives, we do well to examine how much we trust in God’s love for us, and how much we love Him, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances or moments.
Let us pray, in a particular way through the intercession of Mary, Cause of Our Joy, for the grace to be joyful witnesses of Christ, to be saints, in the midst of a sorrowful world that must be reminded constantly that true happiness lies only in God.