We just experienced the most important time of the Church year—the celebration of Holy Week. The suffering and death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection on Easter give us reason for great joy. The challenge, however, may be to live this Easter joy throughout the entire year. We look to Scripture and ask, “What is the result of all that Jesus accomplished?” It can be briefly stated: “For the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17)
Let’s briefly examine these three elements: righteousness, peace and joy. Righteousness is what Jesus accomplished for each of us—that is for all who receive it—through His death on the cross. This righteousness obtained for us “right standing” in our relationship with the Father. Before Jesus gave His life for us in the horrific crucifixion, we couldn’t have a right relationship with the Father because of the separation from Him caused by our sin. This redemption by Jesus is greater than any fear we will ever have to face. Jesus “reaches down” and takes hold of us by the hand and pulls us back up into right relationship with our Heavenly Father, reuniting us with Him as His adopted sons and daughters by baptism.
This righteousness opens us to the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is essential to receive the Holy Spirit to live out this righteousness—this right standing with God. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit: “I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor [Sanctifier, Helper, Advocate, Comforter, Strengthener] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (Jn 16:7) The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray so that we can remain in right relationship with Jesus and our Father. Further, the Holy Spirit helps us to know the truth. We are beloved children of God and we are strengthened by the power of His grace to break free of sinful habits and to live according to Jesus’ command to “love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)
Peace literally flows into our heart and mind following our acceptance of the gift of righteousness, referred to as our justification. Jesus promised us: “Peace I leave with you; My own peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (Jn 14:27)
Peace is a calm that passes all understanding. It contains hope and an expectancy of good things based on truths that are deeper than any circumstances we might be facing. Peace brings security and an overall sense of wellbeing.
This peace in our heart brings about a deep, interior joy, a true “delight” that uplifts one’s spirit. It is essential to note that as peace follows righteousness, joy follows peace. The joy being referred to here is different from what the world calls happiness. Such happiness is based upon happenings or moods, circumstances and events that we experience in doing things that bring pleasure. We need to remember that worldly happiness only lasts for a time. The things of this passing world bring only fleeting happiness: vacations, sporting events, our possessions and even other people can’t ultimately satisfy our desire for deep, interior joy. Jesus came to us that: “My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15:11)
How do we find joy when we are not feeling very joyful? The best way to experience joy is to start helping someone. And, in turn, if we are not feeling peaceful, we need to be thankful. Even if the world is falling apart around us, or we feel miserable, there is always one thing we can be thankful for. We can be grateful for all that God has done for us in giving us His Son to save us. If we turn and look at the crucifix and are thankful for Jesus’ redemption, we will know peace and joy. In the everyday moments of life, remember the righteousness accomplished for you by Christ and His peace and joy will follow. This is an incredible blessing that can sustain us through any trial or suffering.If you would like to hear more about joy, how to open yourself to the joy that Jesus desires that you have, join us virtually on Wednesday, Aug. 24 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. as Chris Stefanick—internationally known presenter—speaks with us about “Living Joy: 9 Rules to Help You Discover and Live Joy Every Day.” Cost is $10 per person.
For further details, visit diolc.org/witness.
Director of the Office for Catechesis and Evangelization
Published in the May/June 2022 issue of Catholic Life Magazine