“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
It would seem that the goal of human life is happiness. Commercials and advertisements all show happy people gathered around a table filled with food or drink, driving a new vehicle with all the whistles and bells, travelling to exotic places, or being at parties or sports events with friends. We pursue happiness through relationships, our jobs, our families, and getting and staying fit.
Yet, happiness is a human emotion and human emotions are ephemeral, fleeting. They change as our life circumstances change. When life is going well, we’re happy. When life is hard, well, we’re not so happy.
We sometimes confuse joy and happiness. Happiness is a human emotion and we humans feel those emotions: they are real, both the positive and the not so positive, coming in and receding out like the tide. Joy, on the other hand, is a gift from God. In fact, God shares God’s joy with us by sharing God’s very self with us. Joy is not dependent upon what we are doing, who we are with or how we are feeling. Joy is experienced when we encounter God and God’s handiwork in our lives and in the world around us. Joy comes from the presence of God.
Sometimes that joy radiates from us, causing us to want to shout from the rooftops. Other times, joy is a quiet filling of our hearts and souls and may be imperceptible to others. Most of the time, it is an awareness of God dwelling in our hearts. Sometimes we get busy with our lives and lose touch with that joy which comes from God. When that happens to me, I slow down, spend time listening to God in prayer and get back in touch with God’s presence within my heart.
God dwelling in our hearts causes us to rejoice. Rejoicing in the Lord, as St. Paul urges us to do time and again in this passage from Philippians, is the expression of thanks and praise for the presence of God in our hearts, in our lives. Rejoice…and give thanks for the gift of God’s very self to you.