“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” These are the words proclaimed in the entrance antiphon of Mass for Gaudete Sunday this week. It urges us to constantly rejoice in the Lord, and as good stewards of Christ, we should always strive to live lives inundated with the joy that flows from the Lord.
In order to do this, we must understand the difference between joy and happiness, for the Lord never promised us happiness. Instead He says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Happiness is a result of our good circumstances, because we feel good, or we had something positive happen to us, etc. Joy on the other had goes much deeper. Henri Nouwen describes it as ‘the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing –sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.”
So joy is the ability to remain happy due to our awareness of being beloved sons and daughters of God even amidst the trials of our life. Henri Nouwen further describes joy as a choice we must make every day. How often in our difficult lives do we take solace and rejoice in our identities of being beloved children of God? This Gaudete Sunday let us strive to be more intentionally joyful, and to pray to Christ for strength, for He says, “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete” (John 16:24)