21 Resurrection. Joy


    "'De cetero, fratres, gaudete, perfecti estote, exhortamini invicem, idem sapite, pacem habete, et Deus dilectionis et pacis erit vobiscum.' (II Cor 13:11)
    "This text of the Hour of Terce today involves five imperatives and one promise. Let us try to understand a little better what the Apostle intends to tell us with these words.
    "The first imperative is very frequently found in St Paul's Letters; indeed, it might well be called the 'cantus firmus' of his thought: 'gaudete'.
    "Yet in a life as tormented as his own, a life filled with persecutions, hunger and all kinds of suffering, a key phrase was always present: 'be glad'.
    "Here the question arises: is it possible to command happiness? Joy, we would like to say, comes or does not come, but cannot be imposed as a duty. And here it is helpful for us to think of the best-known text on joy in the Pauline Letters, that of 'Gaudete Sunday' in the heart of the Advent Liturgy: 'Gaudete, iterum dico gaudete quia Dominus prope est'. Here we understand the reason why Paul, in all his sufferings, in all his trials, could only tell others to 'rejoice'; he could say this because joy was present within him: 'Gaudete, Dominus enim prope est'.
    "If the loved one, the love, the greatest gift of my life, is close to me; if I can be convinced that the person who loves me is beside me even in troubling situations, in the depths of my heart dwells a joy that is greater than all suffering.
    "The Apostle could say "be happy" because the Lord is close to each one of us. Thus, this imperative is actually an invitation to feel the presence of the Lord close to us. It is a means of awakening an awareness of the Lord's presence. The Apostle wants to make us perceive this hidden but very real presence of the Lord close to each one of us. To each one of us the words of the Book of Revelation apply: I am knocking at your door; hear me, let me in.
    "Thus, it is also an invitation to be sensitive to this presence of the Lord who is knocking at my door. We must not be deaf to him, because the ears of our heart are so full of the din of the world that we cannot hear this silent presence that is knocking at our door.
    "Let us at the same time consider whether we really are prepared to open the doors of our heart; or perhaps this heart is crammed with so many other things that there is no room in it for the Lord, and for the time being we have no time for him. Thus, insensitive, dead to his presence, distracted by other things, we fail to hear the essential: the Lord, knocking at the door; he is close to us, hence, true joy, which is more powerful than all the sorrows of the world or of our lives, is at hand.
    "Consequently, in the context of this first imperative, let us pray: 'Lord, make us sensitive to your presence, help us to hear you, not to be deaf to you, help us to keep our hearts free, open to you.'"
    (Benedict XVI, From the Meditation on the Opening of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Celebration of the Third Hour. 3 October 2005


    "'De cetero, fratres, gaudete, perfecti estote, exhortamini invicem, idem sapite, pacem habete, et Deus dilectionis et pacis erit vobiscum.' (II Cor 13:11)
    "And thus, the last imperative: 'pacem habete', 'eireneuete', is almost a summation of the four previous imperatives, being in union with God who is our peace, with Christ who said: 'pacem dabo vobis'. We are in inner peace, because being in Christ's thought unifies our being. The problems, the differences of our soul are united, they are united to the original, to the One we are images of with the thought of Christ. So it is that inner peace is born, and only if we are grounded in deep inner peace can we also be men and women of peace in the world and for others.
    "Here the question arises: is this promise conditioned by the imperatives? That is, is this God of peace with us only if we can achieve the imperatives? What is the relationship between imperative and promise?
    "I would say that it is bilateral; in other words, the promise precedes the imperatives and makes it possible to achieve them and to follow up this achievement. That is, before everything we ourselves do, the God of love and peace opened himself to us, he was with us. In Revelation, which began in the Old Testament, God came to meet us with his love and his peace.
    "And finally, in the Incarnation, he became God-with-us, Emmanuel. This God of peace became flesh with our flesh, blood with our blood. He is a man with us and embraces the whole human being. And in the Crucifixion and his descent to death he became totally one with us, he precedes us with his love, he embraces first of all our action. And this is our great consolation. God goes before us.
    "He has already done all things. He has given us peace, forgiveness and love. He is with us. And only because he is with us, because we have received his grace in Baptism, in Confirmation the Holy Spirit, in the Sacrament of Orders we received his mission, can we ourselves now cooperate with his presence that goes before us. All our action, of which the five imperatives speak, consists in cooperation and collaboration with the God of peace who is with us.
    "But on the other hand, it applies to the extent in which we truly enter into this presence which he has given us, into this gift already present in our being. His presence among us, his being with us, grows naturally.
    "And let us pray to the Lord that he will teach us to collaborate with his grace which precedes us, so that he may truly be with us for ever. Amen!"
    (Benedict XVI, From the Meditation on the Opening of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Celebration of the Third Hour. 3 October 2005


    "Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. For joy comes from another source. It is spiritual. Money, comfort, hygiene and material security are often not lacking; and yet boredom, depression and sadness unhappily remain the lot of many. These feelings sometimes go as far as anguish and despair, which apparent carefreeness, the frenzies of present good fortune and artificial paradises cannot assuage."
    (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975)


    "There is also needed a patient effort to teach people, or teach them once more, how to savor in a simple way the many human joys that the Creator places in our path: the elating joy of existence and of life; the joy of chaste and sanctified love; the peaceful joy of nature and silence; the sometimes austere joy of work well done; the joy and satisfaction of duty performed; the transparent joy of purity, service and sharing; the demanding joy of sacrifice. The Christian will be able to purify, complete and sublimate these joys; he will not be able to disdain them. Christian joy presupposes a person capable of natural joy. These natural joys were often used by Christ as a starting point when He proclaimed the kingdom of God. ...
    "Let us now pause to contemplate the person of Jesus during His earthly life. In His humanity He had experienced our joys. He has manifestly known, appreciated, and celebrated a whole range of human joys, those simple daily joys within the reach of everyone. The depth of His interior life did not blunt His concrete attitude or His sensitivity. He admires the birds of heaven, the lilies of the field. He immediately grasps God's attitude towards creation at the dawn of history. He willingly extols the joy of the sower and the harvester, the joy of the man who finds a hidden treasure, the joy of the shepherd who recovers his sheep or of the woman who finds her lost coin, the joy of those invited to the feast, the joy of a marriage celebration, the joy of the father who embraces his son returning from a prodigal life, and the joy of the woman who has just brought her child into the world. For Jesus, these joys are real because for Him they are the signs of the spiritual joys of the kingdom of God: the joy of people who enter this kingdom return there or work there, the joy of the Father who welcomes them. And for His part Jesus Himself manifests His satisfaction and His tenderness when He meets children wishing to approach Him, a rich young man who is faithful and wants to do more, friends who open their home to Him, like Martha, Mary and Lazarus. His happiness is above all to see the Word accepted, the possessed delivered, a sinful woman or a publican like Zacchaeus converted, a widow taking from her poverty and giving. He even exults with joy when He states that the little ones have the revelation of the kingdom which remains hidden from the wise and able.(20) Yes, because Christ was "a man like us in all things but sin,"(21) He accepted and experienced affective and spiritual joys, as a gift of God. And He did not rest until "to the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation...and to those in sorrow, joy."(22) The Gospel of Saint Luke particularly gives witness to this seed of joy. The miracles of Jesus and His words of pardon are so many signs of divine goodness: all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by Him, and gave glory to God.(23) For the Christian as for Jesus, it is a question of living, in thanksgiving to the Father, the human joys, that the Creator gives him."
    (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975)