By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Mt 9,15) That’s taken from the gospel of Friday after Ash Wednesday. It’s Christ’s response when he was asked why his disciples do not fast as often as those of the Pharisees. This gospel reminds us that as long as we are with God, with Christ, we have every reason to be joyful, despite whatever.
Of course, given our human condition here on earth, there always are times when we need to fast if only to sharpen our closeness with God who can appear far from us, not so much because of him who is always with us, but because of us who can fail to discern his presence in our lives. That’s when fasting would be very recommendable for us.
But we should not be detracted from the fact that a Christian life is always a joyful life. That’s how a genuine Christian life can be described. If we only know the true face of Christianity, we would have no other conclusion to make than to be convinced that Christian life is the most beautiful and joyful life.
We would be overcome, overwhelmed and beside ourselves with joy. We should do everything to achieve that kind of life that God himself is actively offering us together with the appropriate means. A psalm describes this phenomenon this way: “Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” (Ps 66,1) And the reason is simple and clear.
Out of sheer, gratuitous love, God created us, and even went all the way to making us, among all his creatures together with the angels, his image and likeness, children of his, meant to share in his very life.
And even if that image and likeness of God was damaged because of our sin, he continues to love us by sending the Son who became man like us to save us. He may have been angered because of our sin and disobedience, but in the end, it was his mercy that prevailed and continues to prevail.
Yes, Christian life is a happy life. In spite of its tremendous share of suffering, pain and self-denial, it is a joyful life that knows precisely how to tackle these humanly unpleasant events and convert them, in fact, into the very reason for cheerfulness.
The joy deriving simply from our physical well-being and other merely human reasons has no way to handle the unavoidable disappointments and other forms of failure and defeat that we can have in life.
Christian joy has deeper roots and can weather not only the test of time, but also the test of any difficulty and challenge. It can cover the whole range of human situations and is oriented toward an infinite end.
We need to do everything to cultivate this Christian cheerfulness, making use first of all of the ordinary daily events to craft it, and to reinforce, purify and renew it. We don’t have to wait for some extraordinary events to occasion the development of this integral aspect of Christian life.
That’s why we need to be aware of the need to be happy in any situation we can be in, and especially in those that tend to remove joy from us. For this, we have to be ready with our theological reasoning, and train our mind, heart, senses and everything else of our humanity to conform to the truth and reality presented to us by our faith.