GRIEF INTO JOY

Thursday, 6th Week of Easter           

            “You will grieve, but your grief will turn into joy.”

            I have a friend who almost always radiates joy. His life is not an easy one – in fact, it is filled with adversities. Yet, you could sense that he is filled with happiness and joy because he habitually recognizes God’s presence in the midst of pain and suffering. Wherever he goes, whomever he meets, he is able to see and hear something beautiful, something for which to be grateful.

            We must first clarify the meaning of joy that Jesus is referring to in today’s gospel. Joy is the experience of knowing that we are unconditionally loved, and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, or even death – can take that love away. (Henri Nouwen) Joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God’s love for us.

            We must not think that this joy happens automatically. According to Henri Nouwen: “Joy does not simply happen to us.” “We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.” “It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

            Two people can be victims of the same accident. For the one, it becomes the source of resentment; for the other, the source of gratitude. The external circumstances are the same, but the choice or response is completely different. Some people become bitter as they grow old; others grow old joyfully. That does not mean that the life of those who become bitter was harder than the life of those who become joyful. It simply means that different choices were made – choices of the heart.

            It is important to become aware that at every moment of our life we have an opportunity to choose joy. Life has many sides to it; there are always sorrowful and joyful sides to it. And so we always have a choice to live the moment as a cause for resentment or as a cause for joy.

            It might be a good idea to ask ourselves how we develop our capacity to choose joy. One thing we must do is to spend some moments at the end of each day looking back how we have been blessed that day and be grateful for it. In so doing we increase our heart’s capacity to choose for joy. And as our hearts become more joyful, we will become, without any special effort, a source of joy for others. Just as sadness begets sadness, so does joy begets joy.

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