Making joy real

Do you notice that joy is everywhere? The three-letter word, that is. It’s in every kind of commercial around this time of year. As in: Dunkin Donuts are “joy,” which, of course, can’t really be the case, because if America runs on them, like the ads say, we would be looking a lot different. And meanwhile, where do you see joy? On the faces of children at a Christmas pageant; on their faces on Christmas morning; so often in the poor and suffering, who know what matters most. Certainly not in politics — but in our chronic disorder, we seem to expect it to help alleviate our woes.

So how can we make this joy real in the world? I recently came upon a book Mother Teresa co-authored, “Seeking the Heart of God: Reflections on Prayer” (HarperOne), where she writes about just this:

“Joy is prayer, the sign of our generosity, selflessness and close and continued union with God.”

She goes on to emphasize and explain: “Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love, a net of love by which you can catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. He gives most who gives with joy. The best way to show our gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.”

I love how she treats the world stage the same as walking down the street. But then that’s living the integrated life we are called to, isn’t it? “Let us not use bombs and guns to overcome the world. Let us use love and compassion. Peace begins with a smile — smile five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile to at all — do it for peace. So let us radiate the peace of God and so light his light and extinguish in the world and in the hearts of all people all hatred and love for power.”

The other day, a friend texted me, perhaps sarcastically in reaction to a hymn that wasn’t quite inspiring him: “Am I the light of the world?” Well, we sure better be, if we receive the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist! He is within us, we had better radiate that!

So many people in the world are hurting. All this joy talk can seem so foreign, at best, in the face of it. Mother Teresa addresses this, too. “Suffering in itself is nothing: but suffering shared with Christ’s passion is a wonderful gift. Yes, a gift and a sign of his love, because this is how the Father proved he loved the world — by giving his Son to die for us.” So, she explains, “Suffering, if it is accepted together, borne together, is joy. Remember that the passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the resurrection of Christ, so when you feel in your own heart the suffering of Christ, remember the resurrection has to come — the joy of Easter has to dawn. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ.”

God in his providence — and the Church in her wisdom — gave us the gift of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day during Advent. At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, that means never forgetting the Risen Christ. The chapel where her image is also has a statue of the Risen Christ, as Mary always takes us to her Son.

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In the days after the Guadalupe feast, I planted myself there — and I was far from alone — as the refreshing aroma of flowers left there in tribute seemed the solution to any temptations to despair at a time of year when the devil can work overtime, drawing pilgrim tourists and commuters alike to the whole of the salvation story. A people in need of the hope of joy go straight to the Son and his Mother, who will keep us there.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).