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Rejoice and Be Glad

Rejoice and be exceed­ing­ly glad, for great is your reward in heav­en…” (Matthew 5:11) Joy is an essen­tial ele­ment of the spir­i­tu­al life, and is one of the “fruits of the Holy Spir­it.” (Gala­tians 5:22) There is no gen­uine spir­i­tu­al­i­ty with­out joy. From the first pages of the Gospel, until the very end, the apos­tles of Christ, with Mary His moth­er and all of the Chris­tians, are con­tin­u­al­ly rejoic­ing in the sal­va­tion which Jesus has given.

By this my Father is glo­ri­fied, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my dis­ci­ples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my com­mand­ments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s com­mand­ments and abide in His love. These things I have spo­ken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:8–11)… your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you… ask and you will receive that your joy may be full. (John 16:22–24)

Chris­t­ian joy is not earth­ly hap­pi­ness, plea­sure or fun. It is the “joy in believ­ing.” (Romans 15:13) It is the joy of know­ing the free­dom of truth in the love of God. (Cf. John 8:32) It is the joy of being made wor­thy to “share in Christ’s suf­fer­ings.” (I Peter 4:13)

By His great mer­cy we have been born anew to a liv­ing hope through the res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inher­i­tance which is imper­ish­able, unde­filed, and unfad­ing, kept in heav­en for you, who by God’s pow­er are guard­ed through faith for a sal­va­tion ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a lit­tle while you may have to suf­fer var­i­ous tri­als, so that the gen­uine­ness of your faith, more pre­cious than gold which though per­ish­able is test­ed by fire, may redound to praise and glo­ry and hon­or at the rev­e­la­tion of Jesus Christ. With­out hav­ing seen Him, you love Him, though you do not now see Him you believe in Him and rejoice with unut­ter­able and exalt­ed joy. (I Peter 1:3–8)

Spir­i­tu­al joy goes togeth­er with spir­i­tu­al suf­fer­ing. It is wrong to think that joy comes only at the end when the suf­fer­ing is over. Joy in Christ goes togeth­er with suf­fer­ing in Christ. They co-exist and are depen­dent on each oth­er for their pow­er and strength. As blessed mourn­ing over sin is the mourn­ing that comes with the joy of sal­va­tion, so suf­fer­ing in the flesh, in this world, is con­so­nant with — and in a real sense is even caused by — the unspeak­able joy of sal­va­tion. Thus Saint James can say that Chris­tians should “count it all joy” when they “meet var­i­ous tri­als,” know­ing that the “full effect” of their stead­fast faith is that they may be “per­fect and com­plete, lack­ing in noth­ing.” (James 1.2–3) And this is the firm con­vic­tion of Saint Paul as well.

… we rejoice in our hope of shar­ing the glo­ry of God. More than that, we rejoice in our suf­fer­ings, know­ing that suf­fer­ing pro­duces endurance, and endurance pro­duces char­ac­ter, and char­ac­ter pro­duces hope, and hope-does not dis­ap­point us, because God’s love his been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spir­it which has been giv­en to us. (Romans 5:2–5)

It is the spir­i­tu­al joy of Chris­tians, the joy of the mar­tyrs, which more than any­thing else, is the invin­ci­ble wit­ness to the truth of the Chris­t­ian faith and the gen­uine­ness of the Chris­t­ian spir­i­tu­al life.