"You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be, so long as my trust in God gives me strength. We must always be cheerful. Sadness should be banished from all Christian souls. For suffering is a far different thing from sadness, which is the worst disease of all. It is almost always caused by lack of Faith. But the purpose for which we have been created shows us the path along which we should go, perhaps strewn with many thorns, but not a sad path. Even in the midst of intense suffering it is one of joy."
That's quite a statement. And it comes from none other than Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati himself. I was meditating on the concept of joyfulness a few days ago. At the time I didn't see much joy, being overtired from work with impending bill-paying and bag-packing on my hands. On top of that, I just hadn't felt joyful in my prayer life. I had been suffering a lot in the past few weeks, and my attitude was more grind-my-teeth-and-bear-it rather than skipping through a tulip fields while singing that the hills are alive with the sound of music and isn't it a beautiful day?
Now that last image might seem extreme joyfulness to some (such as myself), but I think Pier Giorgio would rather see that in Christian souls than the former. We are called to be joyful! It seems such an oxymoron to some, and it did to me for a long time, to have the concept of a joyful "religious" person. But it is that very misconception that I think has hurt many Christians over time, and has played a role in discouraging people from the faith. Look around at Mass next Sunday. Almost everyone in that Church is about to experience the single greatest event of their lives, a complete union with God Himself. A union so intimate that God had to die for it to become possible, a union so profound and so close that as Fulton Sheen said "the angels themselves if they were capable of jealousy, would be incredibly envious of the Eucharist." A union that literally brings heaven on earth, that is the ultimate display of the most extreme love that a human can ever exist. Now, how many people actually look like that is what is about to happen? If you knew that the person you loved more than anything was coming over to see you and spend time with just you, wouldn't that make you happy? How much happier should we be with that closeness of unity with God? Imagine Jesus smiling every time you go to receive Communion, because no matter how lackadaisical or uncaring our response is, he's so excited to be with us.
Christ needs to be the source of our strength, and it only follows that joy will come. We know our end, we know that crown of glory that awaits us that St. Paul talks about. We know we are called to suffer, for Christ himself suffered, and in our suffering we are united with him. So we have no reason for sorrow! We must truly trust that no matter what circumstances that we are faced in this world, that they are nothing compared for the glory of the next life. And that is our joy, our strength, rooted in Christ. For to draw the world to Him, we must be lights. Look at joyful people, truly joyful people (like an expectant mother or a bride on her wedding day). They have a "glow" about them, as people say. It's true! Let our souls constantly be aglow with the light of Christ, it will spread to our faces and to the world.
Mother Teresa put it beautifully: "Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls." So be joyful in the Lord, and be prepared for a large catch.