“Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always.” (Second Reading)
J.O.Y. is Jesus, Others, You.
In Philippians 4, St. Paul says “rejoice always” while he was in prison, adding, “stop worrying about anything and pray!” He did not say, «God, why did you allow this? It does not make sense.» How did he do it? Paul isn’t putting his head in the sand to avoid harsh realities; he’s reminding us to put our heads in the clouds.1 «The Lord is near,» this is the secret of his serenity. Paul knew that God was with him. The key to that joy is found «in the Lord.»
Joy also comes from concentrating on the needs of others. Self-forgetfulness is the key to living a happy life. Being totally self-absorbed leads to unhappiness.
In the book, “The Happiness Project,” says that generous acts strengthen the bonds of friendship, and what’s more, studies show that your happiness is often boosted more by providing support to other people than from receiving support yourself.
However, we cannot love our neighbors unless we are open to being loved by our neighbors by accepting social invitations.
Your set range of happiness is based somewhat on your biological parent’s level of happiness. Wealth has a surprisingly low correlation to happiness because the less fortunate in life are generally just as happy as others with more money. Only extreme poverty can make people less happy.
If someone suffers from depression, hearing to “rejoice always,” may spur the reaction: “I don’t like being told what to feel.”
Philippians 3:10, which speaks of St. Paul wanting “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.”
Paul terms “the fellowship of Christ’s suffering” to a communion with Christ in suffering, of fellowship with and for the Body of Christ, and others. There is meaning.
Professional medicine can get us to think of suffering in only in terms of a scientific mechanical model. E.g., We now know that depression or this illness is caused by X, Y or Z. But this is different than moral intentionality.2
Paul’s knowledge is not something Paul possesses as information. It is the knowledge of personal experience. The kind of experience that can be defined in terms of resurrection power and fellowship. The secret is that it comes from the fellowship in a sharing in Christ’s suffering and crucifixion; a process of being shaped, conformed to Him.3
To re-narrate suffering, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help a lot. It works by aligning thoughts and beliefs with the truth of reality. Holding onto two realities at once: one’s cross with Christ and resurrection and peeling away layers: Not being afraid of being ourselves anymore.
We also must recognize thoughts that rob our peace. We must disappropriate evil thoughts. Recognize that some come from Satan. Reject or simply ignore them. Practice custody of the mind.
Joy can be continuous if not interrupted by sin.
Aerobic exercise is also key to increase endorphins and serotonin levels in our brains, which function to sooth and aid in our feeling of well-being.
The temperate person does not shun all pleasures, but only those that are immoderate, sinful and thus contrary to reason.
Lastly, singing and hearing music helps us to rejoice.
Organ music, singing, and worship to sense joy is seen in Colossians 3:16, where St. Paul tells us that we are to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
1. G. Kevin Baker, Don’t worry, rejoice, The Christian Century, 12/7/2009
2. Myles Werntz, The fellowship of suffering: reading Philippians with Stanley Hauerwas, Review & Expositor, 112 no 1 Feb 2015
3. Ibid. Werntz