14th day

St. Clare said: “As long as we love the things of the world we lose the fruits of Divine Love. We can not serve two masters at the same time without pleasing neither the one nor the other."

Christian Joy

1. Christianity is neither sad nor pessimistic. On the contrary, it is the harbinger of great joy, (Luke 2:10) to quote the expression used by the Angels when they announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

Obviously, this joy is something quite distinct from sensible pleasure. It is the spiritual happiness which accompanies an innocent life, sorrow for sin, or suffering bravely borne for the love of God.

Any other form of earthly happiness can never be more than a partial and transitory pleasure, incapable of satisfying the human heart completely. When Christianity urges us to be detached from worldly objects, however, it does not condemn the joys of the present life. The historian Tacitus was very far from the truth when, in the description in his Annals of the burning of Rome at the time of Nero, he accused the Christians of hating the human race, although not of having set fire to the city. Although the teaching of Christianity is preoccupied with the joys of Heaven, it does not frown upon legitimate worldly pleasures.

Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were in the power of the devil. (Act 10:38) He loved to give joy to others and sanctified the marriage feast of Cana by His presence and by working His first miracle there. He restored happiness to the widow of Naim by raising her son to life, and to Martha and Mary by giving them back their brother, Lazarus, who had been dead for four days. He spent His entire life giving happiness to others.

There is only one kind of merriment which Christianity cannot countenance, and that is the inordinate pleasure which leads to sin or is the result of sin. This kind of pleasure has no kinship with spiritual joy. It is a momentary exaltation which soon disappears and leaves behind disillusionment and remorse. It leads inevitably to sorrow; this is a chastisement from God which can only become meritorious if it is offered up in expiation. The end of joy may be sorrow, (Prov. 14:13) says the Book of Proverbs. For this reason let us seek spiritual joys, not those which lead to sin nor those which are the result of sin.

2. In his letters St. Paul frequently exhorts the early Christians to be joyful. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. (Phil. 4:4) The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, kindliness... (Cf. Gal. 5:22) But we are to remember that the kingdom of God does not consist in food and drink, but in justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 6:20-22)

St. Paul emphasises that this joy need not be lost in times of tribulation. I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our troubles. (2 Cor. 7:4) In the life of a Christian, joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive, but complement and perfect one another.

This does not mean that Christianity essentially transforms human nature and banishes the pangs of suffering. It means simply that everything in human nature is purified and elevated so that it may be deserving of Heaven, where true and lasting happiness is to be found. Be fervent in spirit, says St. Paul, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, (Rom. 12:12) and as sorrowful, always rejoicing. (2 Cor. 6:10)

3. If we live good lives, hoping for a Heavenly reward and guided by the action of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we shall possess this spiritual joy. Once we possess it, it will be erased neither by temptation nor by suffering nor by persecution, as long as our faith remains firm and steadfast. The sincere Christian accepts pleasure and pain with equal readiness because he places everything in God's hands.This explains what Jesus had in mind when He said: Blessed are you poor . . . Blessed are you who hunger . . . Blessed are you who weep . . . Blessed shall you be when men hate you and when they shut you out and reproach you . . . (Luke 6:20-22) The Saints were happy in spite of suffering and persecution. We must try at least to achieve that spirit of complete resignation to God's will which is always rewarded by peace of soul.