When I think of joy, the outward signs of happiness are some of the first things that come to mind: smiling, maybe laughing, carefree pleasure in something good. Ah – summer nights around a bonfire, winter nights with hot chocolate, and springtime flowers bursting with new life and intoxicating aromas. And then BAM. Real life. I’ve learned that joy doesn’t always look like that. It can – and it’s lovely to be cheerful and happy. But real, lasting, joy is much deeper than that.
Real joy isn’t optimism or cheerfulness. Life circumstances can change too quickly for that to be sustainable. And realistically, life is going to be tough at times. Can we still find joy at those times? Yes! Joy doesn’t depend on outward circumstances or conditions because those don’t last. But joy does.
Joy is an abiding inner peace. Joy is confidence in who I am. Joy is knowing that nobody and nothing can change whose I am – God’s beloved daughter.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati tell us that:
“The end for which we are created invites us to walk a road that is surely sown with a lot of thorns, but it is not sad; through even the sorrow, it is illuminated by joy.”
This Advent, we are preparing for Jesus’ birth. We are getting ready to welcome joy into the world. Jesus is the light of the world, and He illuminates our paths. Nothing can put out that flame of our faith, and it is the greatest treasure we can ever have.
Thinking about joy reminded me of a something St. John Paul the Great said at World Youth Day in 2000:
“It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”
So this Advent, may you find joy in knowing that you are fiercely loved by a God who specifically wills your existence. Nothing can change this. And nobody can stop this abiding joy from lasting forever. May we we find peace, comfort, and most of all joy as we prepare to welcome joy itself into the world.