by Margo Borders
At the beginning of each new year, you most likely spend time reflecting on what you would like to change in your life. Everyone comes up with their “New Year’s resolutions,” which probably involve losing ten pounds, stopping your nail biting habits, or finally reading those classics that have been sitting on your bookshelf for years.
When I was spending time thinking about my New Year’s resolutions, I came across an article about emotional virtues by Sarah Swafford, a Catholic author and speaker who works at Benedictine College. On her website, she lists a long litany of virtues that a Christian woman should strive for. I glimpsed through the list, looking for some virtue that stood out to me that I could work on this year, something to contemplate and keep my eyes on as I navigate the chaos of the upcoming year.
Surprisingly, my eyes didn’t fall on the more obvious virtues that I’ve heard so much about in my fourteen years of Catholic education, such as gracefulness, humility, or striving for excellence.
Instead I was drawn to the more simple virtue of joyfulness, something so often forgotten in the midst of a Christian life.
The idea so easily forgotten and seldom focused on is that joy should be at the center of the Christian faith. Our duty is to love, and joy is the natural consequence of love. Blessed Mother Teresa said, “Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” We not only gain joy from living Christian lives, but we also attract other people to the faith.
Whenever I have read anything about saints, it has always been clear to me that their lives radiate joy. A saint cannot be sad because they set their hearts and minds on God, and living for Him brings the greatest joy of all. I see this when I meet religious as well because they have an element of joy in their demeanor that is clearer than people who live for worldly materials. It could not be more true that living a life for Christ always brings indescribable joy.
Joy is attractive to me because oftentimes meditating on the Christian life can be sobering. In serious contemplation of the life of Jesus and the state of humanity, you realize how sinful you are as a human, how broken humanity is, and the grave reality of what Christ did on the cross for us- a people that continue to deny Him and live contrary to His teachings despite His great conquering over sin and death.
On the other hand, a life lived for Christ brings freedom from the chains of sin and a joy in the closeness of your relationship to God. The Christian life can be sobering and full of suffering, but one should never lose the joy that their faith gives them. We have no reason to be sorrowful, and in our repentance and effort to live a holy life, we should always radiate the joy of the Resurrection.
So I will be focusing on this virtue in 2015 and trying to let the joy that comes with being a Christian become visible in the way I live. Give yourself a moment in 2015 to aim for “joy rather than respectability,” as St. Philip Neri said. “Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us."