"Count it all joy!" When I first heard this phrase many years ago, I knew that I wanted to make it my life's mantra. I remember over-using the expression much to the consternation of the folks whom I encountered in ministry. I turned to this motto many times in my life when things were especially tough. It gave me comfort, it encouraged me, it reminded me of a deeper commitment and it helped me to reframe awful circumstances and encounters. I didn't know the answers or even the direction to take in search of them, but I knew that I was called by God to see difficulties as opportunities to embrace a way of life that was transforming.
When people came to me with their burdens, I offered them the choice of Joy, even in the face of their deepest sorrows. I reminded them of the scripture: "Consider it all joy… When you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1: 2-3), and how the practice of finding Joy in all situations had changed my life. In searching for answers to life's challenges, finding Joy in the equation often led to a release of anxieties that made everything easier to bear.
The Catechism tells us that Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: "The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity." (CCC1832)
However simple it seems, the seeking of Joy is transforming. It reminds us of the belief that our lives are rooted not in the suffering, but in the resurrection: "We worship you, Lord, we venerate your cross and passion and we praise your resurrection. Through the cross you brought joy to the world." (Good Friday Liturgy)
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