Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. God offers us the Fruits of the Spirit to help us in our daily lives, and it is up to us to accept these gifts. Galatians 5:22-23 states, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Let’s talk about JOY! The origin of joy is love/charity. What does it mean to have joy? In spiritual literature, joy is the feeling aroused by the expectation or possession of some good.
Joyful emotions affect the body, but they are essentially in the higher faculties of the soul.
Christian joy is the consequence of possessing God through faith and charity; it is the fruit of living all the virtues.
Each of the virtues helps us habitually to do what is good and these virtues are the building blocks for Christian moral living.
Joy is not a virtue distinct from charity, but an act, or effect, of charity: for which reason it is numbered among the Fruits - Thomas Aquinas
Recently, I led a retreat on Joy. I wanted to share it with all of you because we can all use more joy in our lives. Those who feel true joy from the Lord emanate more peace than those who have a hard time feeling joyful. Here are the topics we covered:
Session 1 - JUST BE
Do you have a hard time sitting still with no agenda and just letting your mind and body rest? I think most of us feel this way as the world has only gotten faster and busier. The first act of divine love is the grace of waiting for and resting in the infinite love and joy of God.
Resting in God - What does this mean?
We learn about rest in Genesis, “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.” - Genesis 2:3
Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” - Matthew 11:29
Jesus invites the apostles to rest, “The apostle returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.’” - Mark 6:30-31
We know Mary pondered many things in her heart. We learn about her relationship with God when we hear her song - The Canticle of Mary or The Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my savior.” To prepare herself for the birth of Our Savior, Mary had to rest, quiet herself and develop a relationship with God.
Here are some practical ways to rest and replenish your spirit:
"Present to the present" moments
Breathing Technique - Grounding ourselves to where we are right now
What are the obstacles to rest?
The perception that we are too busy to rest
Lack of self care
Not making rest a priority
Session 2 - BE OPEN TO THE LORD
We have a free will to choose God and to make the choice to love God. By making that choice and devoting some time, we will learn and grow in our relationship with God.
How do we cultivate a relationship with the Lord?
Listen - stop talking, allow yourself time for silence, humility, honesty, prayer, reading Scripture, and participating in the Sacraments.
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you…” James 4:8
God is always near and waiting - we make the choice to draw closer to Him.
Mary’s “yes” to the Lord is a simple yet beautiful response to her openness to God: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
Practical ways of being Open to the Lord: The Precepts of the Church describe the minimum effort we must make in prayer and in living a moral life. All Catholics are called to move beyond the minimum by growing in love of God and love of neighbor. The Precepts are as follows:
Attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
Confession of serious sin at least once a year
Reception of Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter season
Observance of the days of fast and abstinence
Providing for the needs of the Church
How do we offer glory to God, like Mary did in The Magnificat? Here is one way - we have the gift of rote prayers - Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Obstacles to being open to God: How would you respond to your obstacles to being open to God? What are those obstacles? Maybe we are afraid that being open to God means giving up all the fun in our lives? Maybe we do not know how to let go of our attachment to secular things. The pull from society is strong, but we have to be stronger. That strength comes from God. He will help us overcome those obstacles of being open to Him. All we must do is ask!
Session 3 - HAVE A YOUTHFUL HEART
How can we develop hearts that are youthful and full of joy?
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven? And calling to him, a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 18:1-4
“ Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” - Matthew 19:14
Mary hastily goes to visit Elizabeth, putting the needs of others before her own. What did John do when Elizabeth and Mary greeted each other? He “leapt for joy”.
Children love God with simplicity, eagerness, and a desire to love. A youthful heart can help us to better understand the deeper understanding of JOY - it is the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Our hearts are hardened as we get older. We find ourselves tired, jaded, and wounded. The more we know, the more we think we know. We are clouded by possessions and perceived necessities. We buy nice gifts for kids and what do we joke about them enjoying more? The box the gift came in.
Practical ways to a youthful heart:
What does Jesus mean when he tells us to become like children?
Attend Reconciliation frequently
Simplifying our life - know, love, and serve God
- “Sin makes life complicated.” - Thomas Pressley
Strive to grow in divine love of God and our neighbors.
Watch small children:
- their curiosity
- their smiles
- their questions
- their wonder and awe of the world
- their total and complete faith and trust in their parents
- the mimicking of their parents
- What do they do when they are hurt? They seek out their parents.
What are the obstacles to a youthful heart?
Lack of Trust
What can we do to counter these obstacles? How can we break down some of our walls and learn to trust again? How can we trust God to heal the hurts and make us youthful again? By developing a closer relationship with God, He can help us to rediscover our childlike joy, soften our hearts, and give us peace.
We are all seeking more joy in our lives. Joy is the inexplicable feeling that overcomes us that is mingled with peace, gratitude, and love. You can tell that true joy is from the Holy Spirit, because it is unlike the feeling of temporal happiness that we get from worldly possessions. When you feel joy, you feel the love of God closer than ever before. If we take time to rest in the Lord, open our hearts to a deeper relationship with Him and let go of ourselves in childlike abandon, we can begin to experience the joy that God designed for our lives. This joy sees us through even the hardest days, where we can feast our eyes on the Lord and not the broken world around us. Sometimes we have to actively seek that joy that God is offering to us freely. Joy can be part of our daily lives if we choose to rest, be open to God, and live with a youthful heart.