What comes to mind when you think of the word joy?
- The laughter of a baby playing peek-a-boo with you
- A child giggling and belly-laughing as puppies playfully tumble over her and lick her face
- The glow of new parents gazing with wonder and delight at their hours-old baby
- The wide smiles and happy tears of family members as they embrace a loved one who’s just returned safely from active duty
- Seeing the first robin of spring or hearing the song of a wood thrush again after a long winter
- Looking up to see a sunrise so beautiful that you stop breathing for a moment
- Watching your normally straight-laced, in-control, ever-so-business-like spouse playing, down-on-the-floor and with great silliness, like a child with your child
Joy is our response to the wonders of creation, new life, safe returns, hopes met. Joy is contagious. We can feel it; we know it from experience and can remember it. We also recognize it in others; we can see, hear, and sense it. It streams from love. It’s a gift: something we receive and share.
When we feel joy ourselves or see it in another, we become like the little children Jesus asks us to be (Mt. 18:3, Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17).
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22) because it is organic, generative, and sustaining; its effects outlast our immediate experience of it.
“Abide in my love,” Jesus told the disciples, “…. so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9,11).
Joy can astonish us when it appears in unlikely places, at moments when it is most needed.
Joy, however fleeting it may be, is redeeming. We need to recognize it when it appears and give thanks for it. We need to cherish it and remember it because it points to a reality beyond ourselves, a truth beyond the pain and suffering in this world. It fuels hope and fosters love.
After His resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us (John 14:15-31), and the Spirit gives us joy. We can receive this gift of joy all through our lives.
Take a moment, now, and call to mind your own memories of joy: your experiences, as well as those you witnessed.
Now, add this image to your treasure-box of joy: the face of our dear Sr. Marie, who chose to enter hospice this week, laughing and smiling, her face and her whole being radiating joy and peace. This is a joy so beautiful that we, her sisters, catch our breath in wonder and gratitude as we witness what God continues to do in her: the transformation of her long life, freely given to the Lord in love, into the very fruit of joy itself, for others.
For our dear sister, we pray, drawing on St. Clare’s words to St. Agnes, “that He Whom You serve with the total desire of Your soul may bestow on You the reward for which You so long,”1 with great joy.