I love how the Bible describes, in our first reading, what happened when Philip did the works of the Lord: “There was great joy in that city”, which is also translated as: “The rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch.” In the responsorial Psalm we read: “Shout joyfully to God!” I hope that if you hear this in Mass today, the lector doesn’t make it sound like an obituary. God is so awesome, it should show in how joyful we are.
Small wonder Christianity isn’t very appealing to non-believers. They don’t see enough of us enjoying our faith. Privately, we know the benefits, but do our faces show it? Do we rejoice more than we complain? Do we convey to the world that God is bigger than our problems? Do our attitudes communicate that faith is more fun than disbelief?
What holds us back from openly showing our excitement about being a follower of Christ? Are we afraid that others will ridicule us? How silly! We go to sporting events and whoop it up like there’s nothing more exciting on earth, and we don’t feel embarrassed there. Is a game more worthy of joyful shouting than God is?
Does having crucifixes on our walls and around our necks and dangling from our rosary beads imply that we’re supposed to focus on pain and suffering? Does our history of Saints with stigmata imply it? No! We are an Easter people!
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus assures us that all who follow him will receive eternal life. That’s something to get excited about! Imagine the joy that’s in heaven. Could it be so wonderful that all the saints are whooping it up (including your deceased relatives and friends who used to be so subdued in church)?
Joy is one of the fruits of living in the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). Guess what happens when we openly display our joy. We evangelize ourselves! Psychologists say that smiling reduces stress. Medical doctors say that laughter heals. If you need healing, if you need renewal, if you need to be lifted up out of misery, hold a praise and worship session — just you and Jesus as you sing along with a CD or iTunes of joyful music.
No matter how bad things get, we still have much to be grateful for. When we remember to praise God, we enter into gratefulness, and then the burdens of our troubles become lighter.
One morning on the way to Mass during a long series of difficulties, my mind heard: “Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing…” So I chose some upbeat music, turned the volume up, and drove to church singing and seat-dancing. At three traffic lights, my joy was in plain view of the people in other cars. I gave myself permission to not care whether they thought I was crazy.
As I neared the church, guess which song began to play. “Shout to the Lord”! Was that a coincidence? No! I beebopped with the Lord in my car in the parking lot until it finished, keeping my eyes closed so I wouldn’t know who saw me. It made the whole Mass a different experience for me. It made the whole day different.
Whatever happens in your life today, give yourself permission to have a spiritual party. Rejoice! Give praise to God for his goodness. Even if you have to go outside or lock yourself inside the bathroom, shout joyfully in praise of God! See if that doesn’t at least make you giggle.