A boy who had many experiences with angels as he was dying related Heaven to his doctor in an interesting way. Is Heaven like earth, he was asked by the doctor? “Yes,” said the boy, “but it’s perfect. It’s like earth, but we finally get to live our lives without worry and have everything we want.” He said the angels had granted him glimpses of paradise and that it is like “every day is your birthday.”
Mull that over! Happy birthday every day. We begin to live Heaven on earth, they tell us, when we aim for joy. “Remember, pray without ceasing,” a woman who also experienced death says she was told (again, we presume, by angels). “Play, love, laugh, live for the joy of it. Have fun. Happiness is holy.”
And holiness makes us happy.
And so we have a lesson for the day: joy.
We hear much about peace — how a feeling of well-being and tranquility serves as a marker of spiritual progress. To this we can add happiness.
Joy is a sign that we are on the right path. Live it now. Taste Heaven, while on earth! Christ is “joy to the world.”
Yes, we suffer in life. All of us. But it says in Scripture that sorrow is turned into joy (John 16:20) and when we love God with all our hearts there is joy even in the trials of life; we note the huge smile on saints like Padre Pio (who “suffered” the stigmata), or the way John Paul II glowed (even to the “bitter” end).
In fact, with Jesus, there is no bitterness. There also is no fear. Fear comes when we are not entirely prepared for eternity (it is our soul letting us know).
Find joy now. Find joy in inner cleanliness. That means getting rid of any semblance of pride — which is the key joy-inhibitor. We’ll get to more of that in a moment.
It means dispensing with hatred. You can not hate and have joy at the same time. They are like water and oil. Hate is crude oil. When you hate, you separate yourself from God, Who is love (along with joy).
To have joy is to love without condition. When you look at it, everything and everyone in life is a test of love.
That neighbor who irritates you and deserves rebuke is there to test your willingness to love without condition and transcend irritations that will seem so minor afterwards!
Live joy instead of irritation.
To have joy is to get rid of anger.
Anger — as much as sadness — is the opposite of joy. When we are angry we are mad, and when we turn the word “mad” around, we get “dam”: we are plugging up the pathways of joy.
We can’t have joy if we are not in balance. Another key word here: having everything arrayed in the right way. We tilt away from happiness when we have too much or too little of something. Ask the Holy Spirit for the spirit of balance.
To have joy is to get rid of jealousy. Envy is wanting what someone else has, and when we are wanting we are not filled with joy. Don’t desire what is not intended for you!
To have joy is to stop competing. Halt the race to get more than the next person. That robs both peace and joy. Instead, cooperate. Wish everyone the best. Find joy in their joy!
Are you having trouble being happy? Do you still feel in competition? Do you begrudge others?
If so, you may have to remove pride from your soul.
Remember what it says in Scripture: “God resists the proud.”
If there are mysterious roadblocks in your life, it could be pride. It may be anger. It may be wanting the wrong path. Meanwhile, note how hard it is — how much your spirit resists — praying for the arrogant.
That’s what steals joy: thinking we are above others and have to have material things, when we should be imagining instead our home in Heaven (where the party will be).
Get out from under the yoke of worldly obligation. Go out and experience joy. Let the Holy Spirit fill you. When the Holy Spirit comes, there is contentment — and only then. Pride darkens. Joy brightens — illuminates.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit” (Jeremiah 17: 5-10).
Listen closely to that: even in chastisement, there will be protection (for the humble).
Now follow it up with the responsorial psalm:
“Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent.”
Develop humility and be “born again.” We mean that in a different way. We mean that: with humility comes the joy that introduces us — births us — into Heaven, and those birthdays that are without end.