Rejoice and be Glad in Today by Mother Teresa
In today’s gloom and doom environment, it is hard to heed the advice, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 NIV) But what is joy? Mother Teresa says, “Joy is indeed the fruit of the Holy Spirit and a characteristic mark of the Kingdom of God, for God is Joy.
Christ wanted to share his joy with his apostles ‘That my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full’ (John 15:11).
“Joy is prayer,
—the sign of our generosity, selflessness and close and continual union with God.
Joy is love,
—a joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love, for she gives most who gives with joy, and God loves a cheerful giver.
Joy is a net of love by which we can catch souls,
—a Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. Joy is a need and a power for us even physically, for it makes us always ready to go about doing good.
The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 61)
For our own well-being, it is best that we acquire a joyful attitude, which can make our life so much more pleasant.
Mother Teresa stresses to her sisters to acquire it:
“Joy is not simply a matter of temperament. In the service of God and souls, it is always hard to be joyful–—all the more reason why we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts. (A Life for God, 72)
“A Sister who has cultivated a spirit of joy feels less tired and is always ready to go on doing good. Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptations. The devil is a carrier of dust and dirt—–he uses every chance to throw what he has at us. A joyful heart knows how to protect itself from such dirt: Jesus can take full possession of our soul only if it surrenders itself joyfully. St. Teresa was worried about her Sisters only when she saw any of them lose their joy. God is joy. He is love. A Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. A joyful Sister is like the sunshine of God’s love, the hope of eternal happiness, the flame of burning love.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 64)
“It is a joyful Sister who gives most. Everyone loves the one who gives with joy and so does God. Don’t we always turn to someone who will give happily and without grumbling? ‘Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.’ Because we are full of joy, everyone wants to be with us and to receive the light of Christ that we possess. A Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. Daily, we pray, ‘Help me to spread your fragrance,’ yours, Lord, not mine. Do we realize its meaning? Do we realize our mission of spreading this joy, of radiating this joy daily as we go about our lives?” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 63)
“What would our life be like if the sisters were not cheerful? It would be mere slavery. We would work without attracting anybody. Sadness, discouragement, and slowness open the doors for sloth, which is the mother of all evils.
If you are joyful, do not worry about lukewarmness. Joy will shine in your eyes and in your look, in your conversation and in your countenance. You will not be able to hide it because joy overflows. When people see happiness in your eyes, they will become aware of their nature as children of God.
Holy souls sometimes undergo great inward trial, and they know darkness. But if we want others to become aware of the presence of Jesus, we must be the first ones convinced of it.
Imagine a sister who goes to the slums with a sad face and a slow pace. What can her presence convey to poor people? Nothing but a deeper discouragement.
Joy is very contagious. Try, therefore to be always overflowing with joy whenever you go among the poor.
Joy, according to St. Bonaventure, has been given to man so that he can rejoice in God because of the hope of the eternal good and on the sight of all the benefits he receives from God. Thus he will know how to rejoice at his neighbor’s prosperity, how to be pleased in giving glory to God, and how to feel discontent concerning empty things.” (A Life for God, 74)
Mother Teresa will not even allow her sisters to visit the poor if they are not cheerful:
“If one of my sisters is not in at least a serene mood, I do not allow her to go visit the poor. The poor already have so many reasons to feel sad; how could we take them the affliction of our own personal bad moods?” (A Life for God, 73)
“Our poor people suffer much, and unless we go with joy we cannot help them. We will make them more miserable.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 118)
“Imagine a sister who goes to the slums with a sad face and a slow pace. What can her presence convey to poor people? Nothing but a deeper discouragement.” (A Life for God, 74)
“To children and to the poor, to all those who suffer and are lonely—–give them always a happy smile; give them not only your care but also your heart.
Kindness has converted more people than zeal, science, or eloquence. We take a vow to give wholehearted service to the poor. Does this not mean love of the poor? The poor are not at our service. If we want the poor to see Christ in us, we must first see Christ in the poor.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 125)
However, before we can spread joy to the people around us we have to let joy reign in our family and often this can be very difficult. That’s when it challenges us the most. Mother Teresa says:
“In order to spread joy, joy needs to reign in the family. Peace and war start within one’s own home. If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within our families. We will thus have Christ’s joy, which is our strength. Sometimes it is hard for us to smile at one another. It is often difficult for the husband to smile at his wife or for the wife to smile at her husband.” (A Life for God, 73)
“Someone once asked me, ‘Are you married?’ And I said, ‘Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at Jesus because he can be very demanding.’ This is really something true. And there is where love comes—–when it is demanding, and yet we can give it to Him with joy.” (A Life for God, 72)
But how do we acquire the spirit of joy? We need a change in our mindset and our heart set. We have to see that the work we do is an expression of our love for God put into practice. In whatever work we do, we do our best with Jesus, for Jesus and to Jesus. Mother Teresa explains:
“When you are cooking, washing clothes, working hard in the office, do all with joy. That will be your love for God in action!” (A Life for God, 205)
“We do not allow ourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as we have done our best, neither do we glory in our success but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness.
With Jesus our Savior, “the Lamb led to the slaughter,” and with our poor we will accept cheerfully and in the spirit of faith all the opportunities He makes especially for us—–those of misunderstanding, of being look down on, of failure, disgrace, blame, lack of virtue, and correction.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 61)
“God loves a cheerful giver. He gives most who gives with joy. If in the work you have difficulties and you accept them with joy, with a big smile—–in this, as in any other good thing—–they will see your good works and glorify the Father. The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.” (A Life for God, 73)
In our stressful, modern world with retrenchment and job loss every minute, many of us walk around as if the whole burden of the world is laid on our shoulders. We are preoccupied with many problems. Our words are heavy, our reflections bleak, our emotions sad, our outlook on life pessimistic, and our self-esteem very low. Often we suffered from strained relationships with our families. We have difficulty developing close relationships with our colleagues and we feel hostile toward people in authority.
So, where can we find joy? It seems so elusive. It is hard to find. The reason could be that we complain and excuse ourselves most of the time! We tend to see life as being good or bad and we like the happy occasions but not the difficult ones. But Mother Teresa seems to suggest that to be joyful we need to take the good and the bad alike as, “Still we need so much grace just to accept whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with joy, love, and a smile.” (A Life for God, 95)
Father Henri Nouwen says the same things, “Joy is what makes life worth living, but for many, joy seems hard to find. They complain that their lives are sorrowful and depressing. What then brings the joy we so much desire? Are some people just lucky, while others have run out of luck? Strange as it may sound, we can choose joy. Two people can be part of the same event, but one may choose to live it quite differently from the other. One may choose to trust that what happened, painful as it may be, holds a promise. The other may choose despair and be destroyed by it.
What makes us human is precisely this freedom of choice.” (Bread for the Journey, Jan 30)
“Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, ‘How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now?’ There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.” (Bread for the Journey, Jan 8)
An attitude of gratitude helps us to live in the present moment. We should give thanks with a grateful heart by our smiles, our cheerfulness, our embraces and our kindness. Henri Nouwen stresses, “To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives—the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections—that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.
Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God.” (Bread for the Journey, Jan 12)
“Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.” (Bread for the Journey, Jan 1)
Mother Teresa says:
“Joy is prayer; joy is strength; joy is love; joy is a net of love by which we catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. She gives most who gives with joy. If in the work you have difficulties and you accept them with joy, with a big smile—–in this like in any other thing—–they will see your good works and glorify the Father. The best way to show your gratitude is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love.
Joy is a need and a power for us, even physically. A Sister who has cultivated a spirit of joy feels less tired and is always ready to go on doing good. Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptations. The devil is a carrier of dust and dirt—–he uses every chance to throw what he has at us. A joyful heart knows how to protect itself from such dirt: Jesus can take full possession of our soul only if it surrenders itself joyfully. St. Teresa was worried about her Sisters only when she saw any of them lose their joy. God is joy. He is love. A Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. A joyful Sister is like the sunshine of God’s love, the hope of eternal happiness, the flame of burning love.
In our society, a cheerful disposition is one of the main virtues required for a Missionary of Charity. The spirit of our society is total surrender, loving trust, and cheerfulness. That is why the society expects us to accept humiliations readily and with joy; to live the life of poverty with cheerful trust; to imitate the chastity of Mary, the cause of our joy; to offer cheerful obedience from inward joy; to minister to Christ in his distressing disguise with cheerful devotion.”(Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 64)
“Joy is one of the most essential things in our Society. An MC. must be an MC. of joy. She must radiate that joy to everyone. By this sign the world will know you are M.Cs. Everyone in the world sees you and remarks and speaks out about the M.C.s, not because of what they do but because they are happy to do the work they do and live the life they live. “That My joy may be in you,” says Jesus. What is this joy of Jesus? It is the result of his continual union with God, doing the will of the Father. This joy is the fruit of union with God, of being in the presence of God. Living in the presence of God fills us with joy. God is joy. To bring joy to us, Jesus became man. Mary was the first one to receive Jesus: ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’ The child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt with joy because Mary carried Jesus to him.
In Bethlehem, joy filled everyone: the shepherds, the angels, the Kings, Joseph, and Mary. Joy was also the characteristic mark of the first Christians. During the persecution, people used to look for those who had this joy radiating on their faces. By that joy, they knew who the Christians were and thus they persecuted them. St Paul, whom we are trying to imitate in our zeal, was an apostle of joy. He urged the early Christians to rejoice in the Lord always. Paul’s whole life can be summed up in one sentence, “I belong to Christ.” Nothing can separate me from the Love of Christ, neither suffering nor persecution nor anything. ‘I live, now it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.’ That is why St. Paul was so full of joy.
Joy is love, the normal result of a heart burning with love. Our lamp will be burning with sacrifices made out of love if we have joy. Then the Bridegroom will say, “Come and possess the Kingdom prepared for you.” It is a joyful Sister who gives most. Everyone loves the one who gives with joy and so does God. Don’t we always turn to someone who will give happily and without grumbling? “Joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.” Because we are full of joy, everyone wants to be with us and to receive the light of Christ that we possess. A Sister filled with joy preaches without preaching. Daily, we pray, ‘Help me to spread your fragrance,’ yours, Lord, not mine. Do we realize its meaning? Do we realize our mission of spreading this joy, of radiating this joy daily as we go about our lives?” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 63)
“The surest way to preach Christianity to the pagan is by our cheerfulness, our happiness. What would our life be if the Sisters were unhappy? It would be slavery and nothing else. We would do the work but we would attract nobody.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 122)
“A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. It is the gift of the Spirit, a share in the joy of Jesus, living in the soul.”(Messenger of God’s Love, 56)
“Sharing in the cross of the Lord gives us the right to share also in the joy of the resurrection. And so the joy of the Risen Christ forms the other half of the diptych depicting the redeeming Jesus, which stands on the high altar of Mother’s mind. It portrays in vivid colours the love of the Son who died for our sins, and the love of the Father who having sent us his Son Jesus raised him from the dead and gave him “a glory such as belongs to the only-begotten Son.” The Risen Christ remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament, the Suffering Christ will be with us in the poor till the end of the world.
A choice inspiration of the Holy Spirit prompted the insertion of this joy, this cheerfulness as a characteristic of the Institute. Whatever sorrow, suffering, sadness the Sisters have experienced or witnessed during the day, they should go to sleep sharing the joy of the Risen Christ.
Mother says, “A joyful Sister is like:
the sunshine of God’s love,
the Hope of eternal happiness,
the Flame of burning love.” (Messenger of God’s Love, 56)