Savior 8 Hotels and Celestial Signs Promotions present the Gaudette Sunday Main Eternalweight Event. Introducing to you first the Challenger, standing to my left, wearing the secular sapphire trunks weighing in at nine letters, three vowels with a record of zero souls satisfied the world’s best imitator of bliss…Happiness. His opponent in the opposite corner, wearing the victorious violet shorts, weighing in at three letters, one vowel with a record of over 2000 years satisfying souls your everlasting Eternalweight champion of the universe…Joy.
I’ll admit, I definitely got a bit carried away with that boxing-style introduction channeling my inner Rocky Balboa (but it is a right I possess as a Philadelphia native). Putting Rocky and the sport of boxing aside for just a moment, it is true that Joy is greater than Happiness. So let’s take a look as to why. We’ve been seeing all the signs of the secular celebration of the “holidays” for about six weeks now (the Walmart in Lake Geneva started selling holiday items on November 1st this year). The ads we see on TV and commercials we hear on the radio are competing to instantly gratify our wants. As a result our self-centeredness which has been perpetuated by the society we are driven us toward the pursuit of happiness and distracted us from attaining Joy.
This isn’t breaking news to us faithful Catholics, you’ve heard this message preached from the pulpit, on Catholic TV, and Radio Stations, and in chain mail forwarded to your email inbox by your Grandmother. Some of us even sport those tacky auto magnets to remind fellow motorists that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” We know that we are in a twelve-round fight with secularism this time of year trying to preserve the sanctity of the Advent and Christmas seasons and at times our own sanity. However, knocking out the secular manifesto of happiness by plastering a bumper sticker on your car doesn’t really help you acquire Joy. We need then to ask ourselves a deeper question. What does it mean to possess heavenly Joy?
Jesus in the Gospel of John gives us some insight into what joy is and how to acquire this fruit of the Spirit:
“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. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” John 15:9-14
We need to note a few things about this passage. First and foremost, it contains a conditional statement. That means if “A” is achieved “B” occurs. So Jesus says if you keep His Commandments you will remain in His love and acquire Joy. Let me be very clear, God’s love is unconditional, He loves us even when we turn our back on Him. But in this passage Christ isn’t just highlighting his love for us, but also the reward we receive for loving Him. In other words just because God’s love is unconditional doesn’t mean that we go unrewarded for being faithful to the commandments. Christ isn’t saying he is going to stop loving us if we don’t follow His commandments or withhold His forgiveness. Rather, He is saying if you play by the rules and follow my teaching and commandments I will reward you with my Joy…complete Joy. This is why Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit because it grows from our response to God’s love.
So what makes this gift of Joy more attractive than the iPhone 5S? The world confuses us by using the terms happiness and joy as synonyms, but their meanings could not differ more. After all, the lyrics to the song don’t read “Joy to the world my iPhone came.” Happiness is a human emotion experienced as a result of favorable temporal happenings in one's life. Joy on the other hand is a human emotion experienced as a result of heavenly grace manifest in one's life. Still don’t get the difference? Let’s talk Greek. The specific word that Christ uses for Joy in this passage of John’s Gospel in Greek is “chara”. The best translation the concordance can muster for this word is “calm gladness.” Doesn’t sound like any Apple product to me, as 75% of the iPhone users I know are neither calm nor glad.
The joy that Christ seeks to give us is so much more profound than temporal happiness. When we understand and attain the fruit of joy, we possess the ability to be calm and cheerful throughout our life. When disaster and tragedy strike or when we are unfairly treated this fruit of the Spirit enables us to be even keel and cheerful serve others as we journey along the roller coaster ride of life. Despite having more two more vowels and six more letters, Happiness can’t last a single round in a boxing match with Joy.
Perhaps this is because the only way to attain Joy is to give up everything, even our lives. If you study John 15:9-14 closely, you’ll see what I mean. Christ says if you follow his commandments you will remain in his love and as a result, you will have complete Joy, which is rather obvious. But then He gives us His commandment to love one another and to the point of giving our lives for our friends. In Summary, to gain Joy, we need to follow Christ’s commandment. What is Christ’s commandment? To love one another and lay down our lives for one another. So then it follows the only way to gain Joy is by loving one another to the point of sacrificing our lives for one another. Joy is all about the eternal. It is possible to have joy amidst our present sufferings by focusing our thoughts on the treasures and the everlasting union with God that await us in heaven.
This is the counter-cultural, soul-transforming revelation. It is the antithesis of the Mall Madness of Black Friday and Internet Scouring of Cyber Monday. To attain Joy is to give everything away, not possess the world. This is what the greatest saints understand and what we need to come to realize ourselves during this season of Advent, especially during Gaudette Sunday.
Rejoice! For the Father has gifted His Son to the World, He has given us everything so that we might share His Joy. So as we await the coming of the Lord during the season of Advent let us peel the bells announcing his coming.
Or as Balboa said “Wanna Ring the Bell?” and Creed responded “Alright…Ding…Ding…”