21st April 2021
GOD MADE US FOR JOY
Acts 8:1b– 8
Psalms 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a
What great joy can come from doing what God wills! For me, that is the theme running through our readings today. After the death of St. Stephen, the early church faces persecution. Yet, even in the face of imprisonment and death, the people of the Way (an early name for the Christian movement) rejoice in the Good News as proclaimed by the apostles and disciples. The focus now shifts from Jerusalem to the other towns of Judea and into Samaria. The Spirit is moving the church outward and the Spirit causes joy as the church spreads out and increases in numbers.
The psalm echoes this in the refrain: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” Joy is the natural feeling of those who experience the great deeds of our God. Joy is different than happiness. Joy is the feeling of knowing one is in touch with God.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about doing the will of His Father. This is the food which nourishes Jesus, and Jesus, in turn, becomes our food which will quench our thirst and end our hungry. Jesus promises to raise up those who believe in His relationship with His Father and being raised up is what eternal life is all about.
As I reflect on my life and the life of other believers, I am continually amazed at the joy which comes to those who seek a relationship with God. Joy is not frivolous giddiness. It is a sense of inner peace. Even in the midst of the most challenging events in life, a follower of Jesus has a sense of fulfillment and can rejoice in the Lord Jesus.
I think of all those who are facing life-threatening sickness with the pandemic which has struck the world over the last year. Others are going through family/marital problems.Still others are dealing with financial difficulties. Some are dealing with changes in jobs. Yet, as I talk to these individuals, the one thing they say over and over again is that their faith relationship with the Lord Jesus is what gets them through the trying years, months, days, hours, even seconds. They realize that without their close relationship with God and the strength they receive from friends who are praying for them and with them, they would not be able to handle the pressures in their lives.
Their source of life comes from being fed by the Lord Jesus, Whois the Bread of Life. They feel lifted up, edified, and supported. They know that Jesus is raising them up, not just on the last day, but everyday.
To me, one of the most important qualities of a Christian is Joy. Joyis also high on Pope Francis’ list of qualities. A few years ago, I read his book, The Joy of the Gospel. He challenges all Christians to be people of Joy, especially as we proclaim the Good News by our lifestyle and by our words.
The only thing which can separate us from God is our choice of refusing a relationship with God. That is ultimately the only thing which will prevent us from experiencing the joy which comes from God. And that is our choosing. No problems, difficulties, challenges, nor any other happening will stop God from loving us. And with God loving us, we can cry out to God with that inner joy and Peace which surpasseshuman understanding.
Thus, if we work on developing a deeper relationship with God, we will see God’s hand at work in our life. Our problems will not be over. We will still have challenges in our lives, but we will sense the joy of the Lord Jesus Who is our strength. We will be able to see beyond the difficulties of the here and now and start living the eternal life which Jesus promises to give us.