On Gaudete Sunday we heard the exuberant exhortation of St. Paul, “Rejoice always.” How can we rejoice always? Is it possible to rejoice always? How can we rejoice always when we sometimes feel low, unloved, broken, and helpless? How can we rejoice always when things seem out of control in our lives and in our world?
But if the word of God says, “Rejoice always,” then it is possible to rejoice always. God only commands what He makes it possible for us to do by His grace.
St. Paul also tells the us three ways to be disposed for this unending joy.
First, we must “pray without ceasing.” Our unceasing prayer maintains our relationship with God even if our conditions do not improve. Our persistent and persevering prayer shows our good will towards God as well as our readiness to receive from Him a joy that is deeper than the ephemeral joys of our earthly conditions. Our joy will be erratic and shallow when we pray only because we need God to help us solve problems or to change our conditions. We ought to pray always because we are in relationship with Him and we want to mature in that relationship through the thick and thin of our lives.
Second, we strive to do God’s will always out of gratitude to Him, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” No matter the condition of our live, we can surely be grateful to God for something and we express this gratitude by seeking to do His will in all things. Jesus assures us that this fidelity to His will is what makes us intimate with Him, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister and mother.”(Mt 12:50)
Third, we must always practice spiritual discernment, “Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.” We must constantly ask: where is this thought, desire, feeling coming from and where is it leading me to: towards God or away from Him? Such attitude of discernment allows us to retain what is good, true, and beautiful while we reject every form of evil. We forfeit any hope for deep and lasting joy when we open our hearts and believe and accept all the falsehood, ugliness, and evil in our world, sometimes coming from those shepherds and theologians in the Church who should teach and defend the Catholic faith.
These three steps will lead us to recognize and experience the faithfulness of the God who calls us to rejoice always, “The one who calls you is faithful and He will also accomplish it.” We can only rejoice always when we sense the faithfulness of God in our daily life.
In Jesus Christ, this faithful God who calls us to unceasing joy and who makes this joy possible is with us always. For us to rejoice always, we must know Him, believe what He has done for us, and wait with hope for what He alone can bring to us – the joy of full communion with God.
St. John the Baptist’s words to the Jews could easily apply to us Christians today, “There is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” It echoes the words of the Prologue, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, but the world did not know Him.”(Jn 1:10) How could we ever hope for deep and lasting joy when we do not recognize the presence of Christ with us?
The Baptist knew Jesus well. Knowing Christ, he knows his true identity in Christ, “I am not the Christ…I am not the Prophet…I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.” Knowing Christ, he also knows his mission in Christ, “I baptize with water.” He knows that Christ alone brings the Spirit of joy to this world, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” He has inner joy from knowing Jesus Christ, and his identity and mission in Christ, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for Him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been complete.”(Jn 3:29-30).
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God calls us to rejoice always even in our troubled world. We do not have to wait until we are without personal struggles, or in control of our lives or in a less chaotic world. That may never happen! Our faithful God who calls us to unceasing joy makes such joy possible even in our era of Covid-19. He is present with us but, like John the Baptist, we must know Him too so that we begin to see our true selves, our mission and our destiny in Him. This is our only hope for unceasing joy.
Truly God has given to us Catholics all that we need to rejoice always. He has given us Himself ever present in the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is our ever-faithful God present with us always, repeating those words of His complete self-oblation for us every moment during the holy sacrifice of the Mass despite all our infidelities to Him, “This is my body…This is my blood.” He is constantly revealing Himself to us if we would approach Him in humble faith, ready to know Him and His will. Through the Mass, we can celebrate what He has achieved for us on the cross of Calvary and make it present and efficacious now. We can also learn to wait in hope for the fullness of joy that He brings.
Our faithful God has also given us His own Mother Mary to be our mother too and to help us dispose ourselves to experience the joy of our faithful Lord. Mama Mary is the one who did not seek for joy in her condition or accomplishment but in God alone as she attested in her Magnificat, “My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” She also helps us to seek for our joy in the faithfulness of God to us even in the darkest moments.
Mary’s grateful heart also helps us to see the reasons for gratitude to God all around us so that we too can echo her words, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” She helps us to lift our heart to God in prayer as she did at the wedding feast of Cana, “They have no wine.” We need to hear her motherly voice prompting to do the will of God always too, “Do whatever He tells you.” We need to learn from her to discern what is from God and what is not as she discerned closely the Angel Gabriel’s words of praise before she consented, “She pondered in her heart what sought of greeting this may be.”(Lk 1:29)
With the amazing grace of the Eucharist with us always and the ever-present help of Mary, Cause of our joy, we too can experience the faithfulness of God and rejoice now, always, and forever.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!