By Fr Aldo, sx
We have been repeating quite a lot the words “rejoice!” and “Joy.” So I would like to invite you to reflect for a while about the meaning of these words which we keep on repeating. The notion of joy is indeed central to Christianity, which by its very nature claims to be evangelium, gospel, good news… joyful news.
But if I may ask you, is the gospel really joyful news for you? It is quite clear that the world does not see the gospel as joy. In fact many people abandon the Church because, they say, Christianity deprives them of joy, specially by imposing its endless demands. And let us not go too far. Even some confreres who have been with us, when they left the community they said they preferred another way of life because here they didn’t feel happy any more. I always wondered, what is happiness for them? (But that is not the case now). Others keep on repeating that here they are happy. Again I wonder, is this happiness they feel the same as real joy?
It is true, though, that the joy of Christ cannot be recognized as easily as the superficial pleasure that may result from some entertainment. When we look at the world around us it seems that the expression “Rejoice in the Lord!” would be more realistic if it were “Rejoice, but in the Lord,” that is “rejoice, except in the Lord.” But again, let us look at ourselves honestly, which are the moments when we really rejoice? Which are the moments when joy cannot be hidden from our faces?
When the Apostle Paul said “Rejoice in the Lord” he was convinced that all true joy is joy only in the Lord and that there cannot be joy at all without the Lord. And it is equally true that every joy that occurs in disregard of the Lord or in opposition to him never satisfies – and leads the person to such a situation that he or she becomes unable to enjoy anything at all. A state in which nothing satisfies.
Dear brothers, only through Christ real joy comes to the world. No wonder why our founder St. Conforti found joy in everything he did: He saw Christ in everything! And the joy he experienced was never separated from Christ. Therefore, nothing matters more than coming to recognize and to understand Christ, the God of Grace, as the Light and Joy of the world. Only then will our joy be true, when it no longer relies on things that can be snatched away from us and can perish, but when it is rooted in the innermost core of our existence, which no power in the world is able to take away from us.
(Adapted from the Book Co-Workers of the Truth. J.C. Ratzinger, 1992, pp. 400-401)