Happiness: Following Jesus into His Joy


August 15, 2019

Adapted from an Easter Homily by Father Stephen Kuder, S.J.

At the Last Supper, the last time Jesus was with his disciples, he said to them, “I am telling you these things so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Wow! Jesus is saying, “I want to give you complete joy.”

A sister of the Sacred Heart once said, “To be a joy-bringer and a joy-bearer says it all.” That’s Jesus, and that can be us too, bringing joy to one another.

First, we have to ask ourselves this central question: “How do we follow Jesus into his joy?” It sounds easy enough on the surface, but remember, it’s not about us and our joyfulness (or lack of it), it’s about Jesus. It’s Jesus who invites us to follow him into his joy, which is that his victory over sin and death can be shared by all people.

Jesus’ joy is so great because he has come back after he had been driven out of our human flesh by death. But now he’s risen from the dead, and he has this tremendous joy of sharing his new human condition with all of us. It is clear that Jesus’ great joy is to be with humankind. And so we have to do this as Christians, we have to follow Jesus this way. A great spiritual teacher warns us that if we do not follow Jesus into his joy we will ultimately find it hard to believe that we are following him at all. Whoa.

But wait a minute, what if we don’t really feel so joyful? What if we don’t even feel very happy? We can have health problems, financial problems, or grieve the death of a loved one or feel burdened, burdened by busyness or loneliness or boredom. Joy just seems out of the question.

Here is the good news: Jesus Christ will take care of all of that. The risen Jesus reaches down, takes us by the hand and pulls us up out of our un-joy.

Every Sunday we proclaim the Apostles Creed, and we say that we believe Jesus descended into Hell and the third day he rose again. What’s that all about? What’s that gap in there between his death and resurrection? Early Christians called that the harrowing of Hell. If you Google this, you will see images and icons of Jesus reaching down into the underworld through a grave, and who does he have by the hand? Adam. He’s pulling up Adam. And whose hand does Adam have? Eve’s. And behind them, all of those just people who died before the resurrection. Jesus is pulling them all up! In hundreds of different depictions of this on Google, you see Jesus pulling them up, just as he pulls us up out of our hells of anxiety, worries, problems.

His hand is always outstretched. All we have to do is reach up and grasp it. Jesus will bring complete joy into our lives.

Don't miss "Happiness: Academically Speaking" and other pieces in this feature.

 

colorful background with sister joy milos laughing

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