Sunday, Jul. 3rd 2016

Sunday Reflection: Holy Joy

Take a moment to think of something that brings you joy.  Maybe it’s a family member or a friend whose constant presence in your life makes you happy.  Maybe it’s a recent advancement in work or school.  Maybe it’s a simple, pleasant conversation you had today.  In each of our lives, I’m sure that if we work hard enough, we can think of little or big moments that have brought us joy.

From the very start of Mass on this Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, from the opening prayer, in fact, the theme the Liturgy presents us with is exactly this: joy.  We begin by asking God, “[F]ill your faithful with holy joy, for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin you bestow eternal gladness.”  This prayer seems to be an echo of Jesus’ command to rejoice not “because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”  Joy has been one of the big themes of Pope Francis’ pontificate so far, and it is a virtue that should be cultivated in every authentic Christian life.  But Christian joy, holy joy can be a little different than the everyday joy we experience in the world around us.

While the seventy-two disciples return home rejoicing after their many accomplishments on their respective missionary journeys, Jesus reminds them that their source of joy should not be their accomplishments or successes, but simply in their relationship with God.  That is the source of the holy joy the opening collect for today’s Mass is getting at.  Holy joy is rooted not in anything that we can do for our God, but in what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do for us.  God has rescued us from our slavery to sin by the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, and He continues to rescue us through the work of His Holy Spirit in each of our lives.

This is a lesson I am constantly learning as a seminarian.  This summer I am incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to work as Director at a summer camp called Camp Totus Tuus in my home Diocese of Wichita.  In this simple, little opportunity for missionary work, I am reminded daily of Jesus’ words to the seventy-two.  I am reminded not to rejoice in my accomplishments, but in my friendship with Jesus Christ.  On the good days, I can acknowledge that while I am grateful for the successes I have had, my joy is rooted in the God who made such success possible through His unbelievable and unstoppable grace.  On the bad days, I am forced to remind myself that despite my feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and impatience I am still very blessed to be chosen to be out at Camp Totus Tuus, and also simply to be chosen to be a friend and follower of Jesus, to have my name (hopefully) written in heaven.

At the end of the day, that is what really counts in my life and in all of our lives as Christians: not our accomplishments, what we can do for Jesus, but the relationship He has won for each of us.  When we realize and reflect upon the gift it is to be chosen by Jesus, to be rescued from our sins, and to have our names written in heaven, then we learn the gift of eternal gladness that our God offers to us.  Then we are filled with holy joy.

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