The Jewel

Part 10

 

(Joy)


      If you ask what is the characteristic virtue of St. Francis of Assisi, most people would reply, "JOY." And, they would be correct. Down through the centuries, the Little Poor Man's legacy of JOY has inspired countless believers to seek and find the precious jewel of Gospel JOY.


      But what exactly is JOY? The dictionary defines JOY simply as a very glad feeling; happiness, delight. It was certainly that for St. Francis. Even before his conversion, the son of Pietro di Bernardone was an amiable, happy person, pleasant to be with and knowing how to enjoy the good things of life. After his conversion, God's grace built on Francis' happy, amiable nature and made of him a saint whose name is synonymous with Christian JOY.


      What is JOY? A fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul declares. The Gospels recount that our Lord Himself rejoiced in the Holy Spirit. (cf. Luke 10:21) As St. Francis, striving to imitate his Divine Teacher, surrendered more and more to the Spirit of the Lord and His holy way of working, Christ-like JOY became the fruit that he produced more and more abundantly.


      What is JOY? The saintly abbot, Blessed Columba Marmion, describes it as the echo of God's life in us. As God progressively took possession of St. Francis' life, His "echo" began to resound ever more clearly in and through the Little Poor Man. This echo of joy was so compelling that soon Francis was joined by a generous, happy band of followers, whom people simply called the "Joyful Penitents from Assisi."


      What is JOY? St. Thomas Aquinas states that it is delight in the good possessed And what "good" did St. Francis possess which gave him such an overflowing, unfailing delight? GOD! In stripping himself of all earthly wealth and detaching himself from all temporal ambition, Francis discovered the treasure hidden in the field of the world. The ideal of Gospel poverty living without any possessions of his own prepared Francis to possess the real Good which is God. It opened him to receive the great gift Jesus had promised to share with His followers: that my joy may be in you so that your joy may be complete. (cf. John 15:11)


      The exercise of the "little" virtue of JOY is an invitation to plumb the depths of the Christian mystery. It means learning how to enjoy the good things life offers with a JOY that is pure, humble and grateful. It is allowing the Holy Spirit to tend the acres of our interior life, in order to bring forth the precious fruit of JOY. It is a letting go of earthly ambitions, an emptying of self so that we are able to possess the true Good who gives real JOY.


      St. Francis teaches one more very important lesson about the jewel of JOY. The complete JOY of the follower of Jesus is found in the perfect JOY of one who remembers and shares in the Passion of the blessed Christ. It is JOY which is constantly born anew (Pope Francis) because it is JOY which is constantly returning to the fountainhead of all JOY the death and Resurrection of the One who assured us that this kind of JOY no one will take away from you. (cf. John 16:22)


As long as we live on earth, as long as we walk by faith, there will be trials and struggles, temptations and sorrows, tears and sufferings. But, there can always and everywhere be JOY, the JOY St. Francis knew when, in his PRAISES OF GOD MOST HIGH, he proclaimed: You, O God, are JOY!


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