The Source of Joy

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Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

John 15:9-11
Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, as I enter into prayer and read your words, I want to thank you for the gift of your word. In the Scriptures, I encounter you and come to know your love for me. Today, I am struck by your assurance that you want me to have your joy. Thank you for the hope this inspires in me. Lord, I believe in you; I hope in you; I love you. Deepen my faith, hope, and love so that I can grow in the joy you promise. 
Encountering Christ:

  1. Remain in My Love: Jesus just told us to abide in him, and he reiterated that message in today’s passage by telling us to remain in him. He told us he remains in the Father’s love by keeping his commandments and teaches us that we remain in his love by keeping his commandments. Unfortunately, we often see Christ’s commandments as burdens or restrictions on our freedom. Jesus himself promised, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Not only is his yoke easy and his burden light; it is through his yoke and burden that we find joy. 
  2. Interior Stability: When we trust Jesus and remain in his love through obedience, our life develops an interior stability. We are “like a person building a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.” Jesus contrasted this with the “person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash” (Matthew 7:24-27). When our lives are built on the solid rock that is Christ, we find true joy and peace. 
  3. Complete Joy: Jesus wants us to experience his joy and tells us that this is found as we live in union with him as we keep his commandments. We don’t find true and complete joy in self-determination and self-reliance, but by recognizing our dependence on God as “the source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence” (CCC 301). But joy doesn’t just happen; it takes work. Spiritual laziness can rob us of joy. The Catechism teaches, “acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God…” (CCC 2094). To live in joy, we can, “through human effort,” acquire the virtues that “make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life” (CCC 1804) as well as overcoming those things that lead to acedia: “lax ascetical practice, decreasing vigilance, carelessness of heart” (CCC 2733). How vigorously do we strive to grow in virtue? 

Conversing with Christ: Lord, I sometimes forget that true joy is rooted in you, not in circumstances. I forget that you are the rock upon which my whole life is meant to be built and where I find the security that allows me to experience deep joy. Lord, help me be grateful for all the blessings of my day and the little things that give me the experience of happiness but also help me desire true joy that goes beyond circumstances. Keep me focused on you and secure in you. Strengthen my trust in you, so that no matter what happens, I find my joy as I remain in you and am faithful to your commandments.
Resolution: The Catechism calls Sunday “the day of joy” (CCC 1193). Lord, today by your grace I will take time to plan my Sunday so that it is an experience of joy for my family and me.
For Further Reflection: Acedia: Beating Back the ”Noonday Devil by Matthew Nelson at Word on Fire.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.

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