“Are you happy?”, asks Henry, repeatedly, until he receives an affirmative answer from whoever he sees near him. Henry is four. Who knows where Henry first heard this question or how it became so important to him; I will say though, that it has stayed with him for quite some time. It’s his little check-in I suppose.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is telling us something important, bigger than a little check-in, He is giving us the truth about how to find something we all want in our lives. Joy!
And while joy and happiness are listed as synonyms, they are not exactly the same. One difference between the two feelings is that happiness is short-lived while joy is deeper. So a swim in the pool brings happiness on a hot day but there is lasting joy over the pool day when it’s a day filled with family.
Joy can help us through difficult trials, not by living in the past, but by remembering that there is goodness in our lives.
Jesus reminds us that joy is what He offers us if we keep the commandments and remain in His love. I love going to Adoration. It brings me great joy to be in Jesus’ presence in that particular way. When I leave the chapel, the joy stays with me as I go about my life. And when life goes awry, I can draw on the joy to conquer the difficulty or at least, not become overwhelmed with despair. And, that, right there, is what I want, I think what we all want; not to be overwhelmed, not to despair.
The commandments are not meant to curtail our freedom. They are there to keep us safe and close to the Father. And when we are close to the Father, we are near Jesus. And we receive His joy. It is not linear; it is a circle. It is a great exchange of truth, love, and joy. Stay in the circle and you will have joy. Deep, lasting joy in the depth of your being that is not taken from you no matter what happens in your life.
Deanna G. Bartalini, M.Ed.; M.P.A., is a certified spiritual director, writer, speaker and content creator. The LiveNotLukewarm.com online community is a place to inform, engage and inspire your Catholic faith. Her weekly Not Lukewarm Podcast gives you tips and tools to live out your faith in your daily life.
Feature Image Credit: Luca Upper, https://unsplash.com/photos/Z-4kOr93RCI