Monday 31 December 2018

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Some people think that for a person to be joyful, the person should also be happy. But if we look carefully at what joy and happiness really mean, we would discover that one could be joyful, even when one is poor, hungry, down and out, when one is mourning for the loss of loved one, when one is facing persecution and experiencing suffering. How is it possible for a person to be joyful even when experiencing such difficult situations and circumstances?

In today's Gospel, Jesus exclaims: happy are you... blessed are you... rejoice... be joyful. What sort of joy does Jesus speak of? Is joy something that you get when your needs and wants are fulfilled? Society tries to keep sadness and happiness separated. Consequently, we try to forget about death, illness, our family problems because they seem to keep us from the happiness we hope for. Yet, Jesus shows in his teachings and in his life, that true joy is hidden in the midst of our sorrow. The cross has become a powerful symbol of this reality; it is a symbol of death and of life, of suffering and of joy, of defeat and of victory. In the cross, both joy and sorrow can co-exist. Of course, this is not easy to understand, but when we think about some of our life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of a friend, great sorrow and great joy can be seen as parts of the same experience, where we discover joy in the midst of the sorrow.

So what does this mean? It means that true joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from knowing of God’s love for us. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing; not even death; can take that love away. To be happy, as the responsorial psalm tells us, is to "trust in the Lord." In our spiritual life, joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God, and have found in God our refuge our safety, and our strength, and that nothing can take God away from us. Let us remain joyful always, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be, as God is with us.

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