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Christian Joy is a gift and a fruit which grounds our lives

Joy is not to be understood as something superficial or immature.  The person who is filled with Christian joy possesses an immense treasure because the true Christian can smile and laugh even in the middle of the most terrible adversities and sufferings. Let us make this Christmas the best Christmas ever by making a firm decision today to rid ourselves from every behavior that causes us to be self-centered.  "Rejoice always" (Thessalonians 5: 16). 

We light the Rose Colored candle, a symbol of joy

We light the Rose Colored candle, a symbol of joy

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - A number of years ago, a young college student was working as an intern at his college's Museum of Natural History. One day while working at the cash register in the gift shop, he saw an elderly couple come in with a little girl in a wheelchair.

As he looked closer at this girl, he saw that she was kind of perched on her chair. The student realized that she had no arms or legs, just a head, neck and torso. She was wearing a little white dress with red polka dots.

As the couple wheeled her up to the checkout counter, he turned his head toward the girl and gave her a wink. Meanwhile, he took the money from her grandparents and looked back at the girl, who was giving him the cutest, largest smile he had ever seen. All of a sudden her handicap was gone and all that the college student saw was this beautiful girl, whose smile just melted him and almost instantly gave him a completely new sense of what life is all about. She took him from an unhappy college student and brought him into her world; a world of smiles, love and warmth.

The lighting of the pink candle of the Advent Wreath reminds us that Christmas is almost here.  The theme of this Sunday's liturgy is joy and Saint Paul tells us to rejoice.  "Rejoice always" (Thessalonians 5: 16). 

What is joy?  The dictionary defines joy as an emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.  It is also defined as a state of happiness or felicity.  In Catholicism, joy is a state of soul equated with happiness and it is also defined as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. 

Joy is not to be understood as something superficial or immature.  The person who is filled with Christian joy possesses an immense treasure because the true Christian can smile and laugh even in the middle of the most terrible adversities and sufferings.  Saint Lawrence, when he was being cooked alive by his torturers, joked and told them to turn him over. 

Sadness is certainly the epidemic of our times. A lot of people are walking around without a smile on their face.  Christianity is completely opposite to selfishness, self-absorption and narcissism.  Christianity demands a radical reorientation of our personal lives.  We must be empty of all self-seeking. 

There are many things in our modern society that are causing many to live very selfish lives.  On the top of the list are four things that need to be looked at very carefully.  These four things are: the lack of personal prayer, the infrequent use of the Sacrament of Confession, excessive television viewing and contraception.  All four things have caused many people to become deeply self-absorbed and isolated. 

More and more people are appearing like zombies who are disconnected from their family and their friends.

Saint Thomas Aquinas listed eight Capital or Deadly Sins rather than our list of seven.  He maintained that sadness was the worse one of them all.  The famous Italian poet Dante, in his Divine Comedy, placed sadness at the lowest level of hell. 

We need to laugh and I agree that we should speak of five marks of the Church, rather than four:  One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Joyful. 

In my parish we promote a strong parish community life that allows parishioners and their guests to experience friendship and community.  If you want to experience the true joy of Christianity, be like Jesus.  Live for others and not for yourself.  Be a gift for others.  Family life is essential.  Parish family life is essential.  No man is an island.  Community is essential in order to be human and Christian. 

Pope Benedict says that "the Church is Eucharistic fellowship" (God is Near Us, p. 115).  As living members of the parish family, we are called not only to worship, but to participate in the community life of the parish.  The parish is our church family. 

"Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself.  But faith is not an isolated act.  No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone.  You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life.  The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others.  Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith.  Each believer is thus a link in a great chain of believers.  I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 166).

I firmly believe that after every Eucharistic Celebration, whenever possible, there should always be some kind of community activity with food.  Moreover, sprinkled throughout the liturgical year, there should be well organized parish family life activities that provide an opportunity for the entire community to come together.

Life is difficult and it is not getting any easier.  Our secular world makes every attempt to eradicate every visible reminder of the transcendent.  Moreover, most of us live very busy lives, exercising multiple tasks throughout a very intense day.  Formal moments of total silence and deep contemplative prayer are necessary for anyone who wants to be a true Christian in the modern world.  Fr. Karl Rahner once wrote, "The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing."

If we do not develop a serious life of contemplative prayer and Eucharistic life, the ever-increasing difficulties around us will crush us.  Rather than experiencing the joy which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we will be overwhelmed by profound anxiety and sadness.

Life has different seasons.  Sometimes our existence moves forward like a sunny summer day.  We feel the closeness of God and our days unfold effortlessly.  But then the harshness of winter comes along.  We become overwhelmed by the apparent absence of God's presence.  Prayer becomes tedious.  People seem to bother us.  Perhaps the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, sickness, or the disloyalty of a friend brings us into the harshness and darkness of a winter day.  Nevertheless, even in these moments we can experience Christian joy. 

Fr. Jean Vanier, the French founder of L'Arche, has had continual experience with suffering through his work with the mentally disabled.  In his writings, he maintains that darkness is important.  "We must learn to be strong and peaceful in darkness, not fighting it, but waiting.  We must learn to accept this winter as a gift from God, and we will discover that the snow will melt and the flowers come up."

Blessed Pope John Paul II constantly spoke about the great spring time of the Church.  Spring time means that there is still frost, mud and snow on the ground.  Trees begin to blossom, but they are not in full bloom.  Both the Church and the world are going through upheaval and transformation.  Within all of the trials and tribulations that surround us, let us be patient and be filled with hope.  The dark night of purification will bring about something beautiful and pure.

"As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations" (Isaiah 61: 11).

My dear friends, let us make this Christmas the best Christmas ever by making a firm decision today to rid ourselves from every behavior that causes us to be self-centered.  "Rejoice always" (Thessalonians 5: 16). 

A few years ago, a young, attractive, successful woman noticed a small lump behind her ear as she was brushing her hair.  As the days went on, she noticed that the lump was getting larger, so she decided to see her doctor.  Her worst fears were confirmed.  The doctor told her that the lump was a large tumor that would require immediate surgery.
When she awoke following the surgery, she found her entire head wrapped like a mummy.  She could see herself in a mirror only through two tiny holes cut into the wrapping.  Desiring to see what she looked like, she unwound the large bandage from her head and was shocked to see that her once attractive features had become disfigured by a paralysis caused perhaps by damage to facial nerves during the removal of the tumor.

Standing before the mirror, she told herself that she had one choice to make: to laugh or to cry.  She decided to laugh.  Sadly, the various therapies tried were unsuccessful in alleviating the facial paralysis. However, that decision made to laugh in the face of adversity has allowed this woman to carry on with her life with joy.

"I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul." (Isaiah 61: 10).


Visit Father James on the web at and purchase his new book Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics.  Click here for the audio podcast of this homily.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
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Keywords: Gaudete, Joy, Rejoice, Happiness, Freedom, living faith, Fr James Farfaglia


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1 - 7 of 7 Comments

  1. MotherCrab
    3 years ago

    This message is for the editors. I am flattered that you would use my photograph of the Gaudete vestments, but it is copyrighted. I do not mind if you use my photos, but i kindly ask for attribution to my blog.

    God bless you and your work!

  2. Patrick
    3 years ago


    I believe the point of the message, not so much as to not have grief or lament, is to maintain a joyous outlook and stay close to Christ, and let him be your joy even when the worst has come upon you.

    Jesus did weep for his friend, but he did not get depressed and stop his ministry. For the little girl in the brothel, though she is being put through terrible things through no fault of her own, She should still have joy in Jesus, knowing that He will comfort her, and she will be in a far better place in the next life.

    This article isn't about repressing any feelings, but having Joy knowing that God is in control of everything.

  3. Steve
    3 years ago

    I'm sure Father James article on this Gaudete Sunday may be mis-interpreted by some. The quote used by Karen from Father's article, "the true Christian can smile and laugh even in the middle of the most terrible adversities and sufferings" does seem absurd especially in few of her "concrete example " about the ten-year old little girl. But I think she misses the point. Certainly Jesus was not laughing all the time, he became Man to endure our sufferings, and die for us.
    But as he was being crucified, I'm sure he was "rejoicing" within himself. For us as humans to fully believe in God, means that we can accept whatever happens to us. Our rejoicing is within ourselves, knowing that we believe in God and accept His teachings without question.
    Sure, each of us will suffer here on earth, we wouldn't truely be human if we didn't.
    I think Father's message was "right-on" in keeping with our Catholic faith--rejoice in the Lord always.

  4. Erica
    3 years ago

    As a mother who lost an 8 year old daughter on Easter Day almost three years ago in a car accident, I completely understand what you are saying and I want to thank you. Instead of making excuses to staying home to dwell in my memories,and avoid any interaction with friends and family this article and your words have given me a new insight and new strength. I will no longer try to get through the holidays and I will partake in this Christmas season and we get ready to celebrate Jesus's birthday and prepare for Easter.

  5. Fr. James Farfaglia
    3 years ago

    Thank you for your comment, but I think if you were to re-read the article you would understand the article in a different way. Just a few things to consider:

    1) "... the true Christian can smile and laugh even in the middle of the most terrible adversities and sufferings." - the key is here can and not will or should. Of sadness is a part of our human reality, but even in the greatest of sufferings people can enter in a state of immense Christian joy. Even in the severe case that you mentioned, I know of a woman whom this happened to at around the age of 13. She became pregnant and then a forced abortion was performed on her. You need to know the amazing story of Sr. Anne Sophie of Corpus Christi, TX.

    2) The Scripture that you refer to is of the Old Testament. Things are different now with the salvific act of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. The testimony of the thousands of martyrs show how even in the midst of the most terrible sufferings, joy can be experienced and witnessed to others. This of course only can happen the power of the Holy Spirit.

    3) I would argue pastorally, that the pervasive sadness that I see all around me is essentially caused by selfishness or self-centernedness. If have been around truly Christian people, both Catholics and Protestants, and their whole existence is so different because they are filled with joy. I have seen this in some parish settings and experiences with lay eccessial movements. The joy of the true Christian is beautiful to experience.

    4) I would disagree that we can't affirm what St. Paul tells us in today's second reading - "Rejoice always!" Why not?

  6. Lawrence
    3 years ago

    I understand that from this article that Father is not speaking of having joy in being sexually abused or anything like that. We need to acknowledge of course, mourning and weeping are essential parts of our christian experience. What scripture does teach us, however, is that we are to have an overarching joy that surpasses all other things, spiritual or in our mortal bodies. Even though Christ suffered and died for us in the most horrible of ways and by His own creation He was still joyful of what the end result of all this would be. Our salvation and fellowship with Him in the end. It is common sense to understand that we must find the true value in our sufferings here on earth as Mary did when she made her flight into Egypt, her meeting Jesus on the way to the cross, and His crucifixion, to name a few of her sufferings here. Joy is not just a state of mind for the second, but for all of Eternity and it is God's great gift to us.

  7. Karen
    3 years ago

    I am concerned about this article essentially equating sadness with selfishness. I was especially disturbed by this statement, "the true Christian can smile and laugh even in the middle of the most terrible adversities and sufferings." This is not even scripturally accurate. Rather Scripture tells us there is a time to laugh and a time to mourn. Certainly Jesus was not laughing all the time. He wept over Jerusalem, he wept when Lazarus died, and he did not laugh while in the Garden of Gethsemane. Instead he endured the cross "for the joy set before him." That is, a joy that was yet to come after his suffering.

    Let's give a concrete example of the absurdity that a true Christian can smile or laugh in the middle of terrible sufferings: How about the 10 year old little girl who is imprisoned in a brothel and being raped multiple times a day. I suppose she should be laughing while being raped? Rather, the Psalms of lament are our solace in such times.

    The article would have been better stated if it simply said there is a time to laugh and a time to mourn and this Gaudete Sunday reminds us of the times of joy, as well as the joy that is yet to come as we wait for Christ's second coming. Statements like "rejoice always" need to be interpreted in the context of the entirety of Scripture and not pulled out in isolation.

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