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Living in the Joy of Jesus and being His Witnesses

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The word translated as Gospel in English literally means Good News. Are we living in a way which gives testimony to the fact that living for Jesus Christ brings joy? That the Gospel is GOOD NEWS!

Jesus said to his disciples: - As the Father loves me, so I also love you.Remain in my love.If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. (John 15: 9 - 11) The older I get, the more I realize that word - Joy - had a special meaning when used by Jesus to address the disciples. It still does. After all, we are his contemporary disciples. He still walks with us, instructs us and leads us in the Way. Are we joyful?

Highlights

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - Jesus said to his disciples: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you.Remain in my love.If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete." (John 15: 9 - 11)

The older I get, the more I realize that word - Joy - had a special meaning when used by Jesus to address the disciples. It still does. After all, we are his contemporary disciples. He still walks with us, instructs us and leads us in the Way. Are we joyful?

Difficulties, stress, and painful experiences which, at first glance, can to cause us to respond with anything but joy, can be transformed in the life of a believer - when we have living faith. They can become the very source of joy, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

They can contribute to what I am calling Gospel Joy. That is, if we invite the Holy Spirit to enlighten us in the midst of them, opening our eyes to find their deeper purpose and lesson. Yes, pray for them to either be removed or, if they are not, trust that the Lord Jesus Christ will accompany us through them.

The word translated as Gospel in English literally means Good News. Are we living in a way which gives testimony to the fact that living for Jesus Christ brings joy? That the Gospel is GOOD NEWS!

St. Paul, a man who was certainly well acquainted with difficulty and suffering, told the early Christians - and tells us - " Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes.5: 16 - 24) Did he mean it?

Yes, he did. This was a man who understood that the Gospel really is Good news! Do we?

The pain, hurt, fear, worry - and that awful killer stress, - need not distract us from the source of true Joy. That source is Jesus Christ. He never leaves us! His Ascension was not a departure, just a new way of Him walking with us now, in His Body, the Church, of which we are all members.Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. He is Alive.

Christian joy is not rooted in the circumstances and struggles of our daily lives. Sometimes the travails we experience are the bad fruit of the disorder and brokenness caused by sin, our wrong choices. However, even then, they need not rob us of this kind of Gospel joy, the kind which flows from our encounter with Jesus, the source of all Joy..

The Goodness of the News we proclaim to the whole world does not change. And we proclaim that Good news in both word and lifestyle. Our circumstances simply present us with an invitation as to how we will respond to them. Living faith gives us the means to respond differently because of who Jesus is and who we are becoming - in Him.

Christian Joy finds its root in the relationship we now have in and through Jesus Christ, with the Father, and in the Holy Spirit. That relationship not only survives struggle, it thrives in struggle. That is, for those who have living faith. We can learn to rejoice because the Lord is always near.

One of the Psalms we chant in the Liturgy of the Hours reminds us of this bedrock truth, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the just, but the LORD delivers from them all." (Psalm 34:19,20)

Christian joy is a fruit of the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer (Galatians 5:22). It is meant to be reflected in a new way of living, a way of living faith. It also reveals that the character of Jesus Christ is being formed in a believer. It does not mean smiling all the time - though for many of us a bit more smiling would be a pretty good idea.

Rather, Christian joy, Gospel Joy means living as though we know that Jesus never leaves us. He meant it when he said, "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Mt. 28:20)

A lifestyle change should characterize what it means to be a Christian. It is why, before they were called Christians, they were referred to as "the Way" (Acts 22:4). By living our lives in the Lord we can find this Joy he promised by living in a new way. By living in Him. We do that by living in the heart of the Church - for the sake of the world.The Church is fundamentally a relational reality, a communion. We now live in the Church and go to the world.

We have heard the Gospel account when John told the crowds, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Luke 3)

We have received that very Baptism (the Greek means immersion) in the Spirit. In fact, it can be constantly renewed, if we ask. With that Baptism we have also received the grace we need to respond to this invitation to be a people of Gospel joy.

John the Baptizer is an example of of the kind of humility which paves the road upon which we should learn to walk - if we desire to find Gospel joy. He became a man of Joy because he was a man of humility! He understood that it wasn't all about him! It isn't all about us!  Speaking of Jesus John proclaimed, "He must increase and I must decrease".  (John 3:30)

John emptied himself of himself - and thereby became one who could reveal Jesus to others, one who could point people to the Lord. His humility opened a space within him for true joy, the kind which comes from the real presence of the Lord.So it can be for each one of us.

For John, it began even before he was born. Living in the first home of the whole human race, his mother's womb, this last Prophet of the Old Testament and First Prophet of the New responded to the arrival of Jesus with a dance and just kept living in joy. The Gospel account records the visit of Mary to Elizabeth:

"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

"For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1: 41-47)

Joy fills Elizabeth, inspires Mary to sing a canticle of praise, and causes the child John to dance in the womb. Joy is a Person named Jesus. He is still among us, calling us to Gospel joy!

In the fourth Gospel, the theologian John recorded the words of the Baptizer explaining the source of his supernatural joy, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 1:29 - 30)

The two persons we can look to as teachers in the school of joy are John the Baptizer and Mary, the Mother of the Lord.

Do we think of Mary as joyful? Of course we know she was the mother of sorrows. She was so closely associated with the redemption that she participated in the sorrows of her Son. A sword did indeed pierce her heart (Luke 2:35) and with it she was invited into the suffering it entailed.

But we also refer to her in piety as the "cause of our joy" for an important reason. By her Yes, she cooperated with God's great plan to bring the source of true Joy to the world. Joy was conceived within her and birthed for you and me.  She carried Jesus, raised him, loved him and held Him, in her arms and in her heart. Of course she participated in the greatest source of Joy!

Mary's humility brought heaven to earth and earth to heaven. She was a woman of deep joy because she became the habitation of happiness, the first living tabernacle. She overflows with Jesus and she imparts joy to us all.

We call her the "cause of our Joy" because she bore the One who is its source, Jesus Christ. However, I suggest it is beyond time someone actually wrote an icon of a smiling Mother of God! Maybe they exist. If so, I invite my readers to enlighten me.

You and I can find this Gospel joy, this genuine happiness, beginning today, no matter what our circumstances. The Apostle Paul lived an arduous life of discipleship. He suffered physically, relationally and spiritually. Yet, he too was a man of this Gospel joy. He told the Philippians:

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. " (Phil. 4:4-6)

Let us decide to hear the words of Jesus in the Gospel, with the ears of our hearts, and believe that they can be trusted. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to cultivate the fruit of joy within us. Let us embrace by grace the way of humility and find the happiness of heaven - beginning right here on earth.

St. Josemaria Escriva, a Saint of our own time who teaches us that the universal call to holiness embraces every vocation and state in life, once wrote, "I am every day more convinced that happiness in Heaven is for those who know how to be happy on earth." (The Forge, 1005)

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Deacon Keith A. Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and seven grandchildren. He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties and has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture. He serves as Special Counsel to Liberty Counsel. He is a senior contributing writer to The Stream.

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