Joy . . . More Than Happy.

Webster defines joy as “a very glad feeling.” Theologians, as usual, complicate things by splitting joy in two: sensible joy and intellectual (spiritual) joy. Here’s what they say.

Sensible joy is easy to describe. Think of finishing your favorite meal done just the way you like it. Or hearing your favorite song by the original band; the smell of lilac on a sunny spring day. Joy may be either the action itself (the tasting, seeing, feeling) or the pleasant state that fol- lows having experienced this good thing (. . . how’s that for over analyzing?!)

Spiritual joy is different. It may have similar feelings attached to it (gladness, cheeriness) but it goes deeper than something pleasing to the senses. It has its origin in an awareness of a “Good” that has been obtained through virtuous action.

For example, swimmers exert themselves for months to train for the big meet. They experience joy when they see their efforts have paid off with their best time ever. The joy is in the awareness . . . “do you see what you have done? Your hard work has really paid off. Let’s celebrate!!”

OR Your love for someone is sorely tested yet you remain true through thick and thin. You never wavered in your loyalty. Suddenly you both realize that this is what friend- ship really means. This is a joy!

Spiritual joy can come with some effort of the will, some “doing the right thing”. There can be a bit of suffering for the sake of someone. Sometimes joy comes with the grace “to see” a profound good or beauty.


So your moments of joy? Of laugh out loud happiness? A sense of wonder at this world’s beauty so strong it makes you choke up? Here’s a few of mine. What are yours?

Moments of Joy:

  • Many memories of friends and their great kindnesses.
  • High School Senior year. Beating previously undefeated Gilmore Academy in triple overtime. I didn’t play one second of the game, but the joy it brought on the bus ride home showed me God is real and present.
  • 21 yrs. old. Standing on the 17th tee at Durand Eastman, suddenly knowing that Rochester is where I wanted to live my life.
  • Handel’s Messiah. Pure joy. Also Samuel Barber’s “Adagio”. I can die in peace.
  • A dream I had about God a long time ago. I can still feel what it was like.
  • The change of seasons brings joy (and a sweet sadness sometimes which is a weird kind of joy too).
  • The times of uncontrollable, fall on the ground, close to tears, laughter.
  • Being a priest and seeing God touch people’s lives.
  • Watching children be children.
  • Knowing (because Christ said so) that it’s all going to turn out right. Love wins. Somehow it’s all worth it. If we let it, God will, in His own way and time, set this world right. So we can spend this life doing the things He asks of us. This purpose in life brings joy.

“So you also are in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you . . . your joy will be complete.” Jn. 16:22, 24

These moments are simply a foretaste of the joy the Lord created us to experience . . . our participation by adoption in the very life of God.

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the mind what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor. 2:9

Are you coming to the picnic? Bless you.

Fr. Tim