Summary: Joy is found in following Jesus even though we know we are sinners.
Thursday of 21st Week in Course
The wisdom of the world that St. Paul is putting down today is foolishness to God. Listen to the advice shows. By and large, they try to help people advance in life by making more money, or gaining more popularity, or both. But these thoughts are futile. If we want to have true fulfillment, to experience true joy, we know that we must do two things that are not worldly-wise. The first is to serve others, and to do so without seeking fame, glory, power or money. That means things like donating to soup kitchens, or standing in the serving line, or hammering in molding on a Habitat house.
The second way to fulfillment and joy is to spend time seeing union with God. In the beginning, we must be putting off our bad habits, learning how to detest our sinful practices so that they no longer give us pleasure. Then we must spend time in prayer, silently seeking that critical union with the only One who can fill up the emptiness in our hearts. What was Simon thinking when he told Jesus to depart after the miracle of the fish? He was channeling Isaiah, who saw the power and glory of God filling the Temple, and realizing that his own sinfulness was such a contrast with the purity of God, he couldn’t stand it. Peter realized the same thing, but instead of running away–as many of us do when we see God’s power, when the veil is temporarily down–he asked Christ to depart. When He not only didn’t depart, but called Peter to follow Him, he obeyed. Because he knew that such an action is the only way to true joy.
As the Holy Father writes, it is the same prophet Isaiah who “exultantly salutes the awaited Messiah: “You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy” (9:3). He exhorts those who dwell on Zion to go forth to meet him with song: “Shout aloud and sing for joy!” (12:6). The prophet tells those who have already seen him from afar to bring the message to others: “Get you up to a high mountain, O herald of good tidings to Zion; lift up your voice with strength, O herald of good tidings to Jerusalem” (40:9). All creation shares in the joy of salvation: “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth! Break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones”.
“Zechariah, looking to the day of the Lord, invites the people to acclaim the king who comes “humble and riding on a donkey”: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he” (9:9).
Perhaps the most exciting invitation is that of the prophet Zephaniah, who presents God with his people in the midst of a celebration overflowing with the joy of salvation. I find it thrilling to reread this text: “The Lord, your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives you the victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival” (3:17).
This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father: “My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment” (Sir 14:11, 14). What tender paternal love echoes in these words!
The Holy Father continues: “The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. A few examples will suffice. “Rejoice!” is the angel’s greeting to Mary (Lk 1:28). Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb (cf. Lk 1:41). In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:47). When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled” (Jn 3:29). Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Lk 10:21). His message brings us joy: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11). Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart. He promises his disciples: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20). He then goes on to say: “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The disciples “rejoiced” (Jn 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the first Christians “ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (2:46). Wherever the disciples went, “there was great joy” (8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be “filled with joy” (13:52). The newly baptized eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (8:39), while Paul’s jailer “and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God” (16:34). Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?”