Written by Keith Strohm
Fr. Dwight has a beautiful reflection on the reality of joy in the life of a Christian. He writes:
I'm not sure exactly how to describe joy, but I know what it's not. It's not mere happiness or feeling fine. Neither is it giddiness, hilarity or what some people call 'evangelical perma-grin' (that everlastingly smug smile some pious people paste on) Neither is it a sentimental, twee religious happy time, nor some spooky religious high that you sometimes find in devotees of Eastern religions.
Instead Christian joy is a tough, shrewd realism built on a bedrock of optimism. The energy and determination of joy is formidable. Joy is a steam engine that is unstoppable. Joy laughs quickly, but it also weeps quickly in compassion. Joy is an authentic clarity of vision, a simplicity of style and a direct way of speaking in total honesty, but without a touch of malice. It is honest, open, attractive and infectious. Joy is more than a lift of the heart or the buoyancy of spirit that comes from external circumstances. Joy springs up from the depths of a heart that has been truly converted by the power of the resurrection.
That is the best way to describe joy: it is a heart raised up and being raised up and forever being raised up. It is the everlasing lift of the heart renewed. It is tough, tender, hilarious and alive.
We are so often caught up in the notion that joy is simply happiness. That to be a Christian means "putting on a happy face" in the midst of your trials. But, as Fr. Dwight has written, it is so much more than that. Christian joy transforms and renews everything it looks upon. This is why Mother Theresa talks of suffering as the loving embrace from the crucified Christ. When I listen to that description with through the ears of modern culture, it seems almost repulsive and pathological.
Yet, Christian joy embraces suffering and responds to it with the gentle, beautiful, and captivating love of Christ Himself.
Knowing what I now know about the spiritual aridity that Mother Theresa suffered throughout most of her life, I am moved even more by her joyful witness. As we move out in the world of our everyday lives, may we, like Mother Theresa, radiate the very joy of Christ to those we meet.