Joy And Peace
Joy and peace. Are these not the deepest desires of the human person? And are they not related to one another? They are the most intense of emotions we can experience. Both are positive and life-giving too. There are other intense emotions that we experience as well, such as rage and hatred, but there is no life in these. As human beings, it is in our nature to be oriented toward life, because we are made in the image and likeness of the Author of life. But in our sinfulness, we often act in contradiction to our nature. This, of course, is always foolish. As Shakespeare so famously, and so eloquently wrote in his comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “Lord, What fools these mortals be!”
Trust is the virtue that binds us to one another in love. This, then, is the source of our joy and peace. Our trust in one another is but a mirror image of the trust we have in God. If we do not trust in God, it will follow that trust will be at a premium in our earthly relationships as well. This can become a vicious circle. If we do not trust one another, we will most likely lack trust in God as well. Someone once told me that, “If you are having trouble in your prayer life, look at what might be currently troubling your relationships, especially those that are most important to you. Begin to work on those things, and your prayer life will come alive again.” As our trust in God grows, so too will our joy and our peace. These are God’s desire for us. Joy and Peace are what we look forward to in Paradise. That is the eternal environment of heaven. We need to prepare ourselves for that heavenly environment here on earth by practicing the virtue of trust among ourselves. How do we do that?
Paul gives us a bit of the formula for doing this at the beginning of the Chapter that this passage comes from: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15: 1-2, 7)
These things are not easy to do in this world. But it is our duty as Christians to grow strong in our faith and in our trust of God. Sometimes this can feel like an uphill battle. We struggle with our emotions, with our egos, and with our weaknesses. We have been shown the way, though, in Jesus. We know that Jesus commanded us to love one another as he loved us. But if we are honest with ourselves, we who call ourselves Christians often fall short of honoring this commandment. If all Christians, or at least a critical mass of Christians, were practicing the demands of the Two Great Commandments, the world might be different than it is in right now. This is a fact. For this reason we have much to repent. But God is merciful and full of compassion. We need to turn humbly to God in sorrow for our failings to love. And we must trust that he will give us all the graces we need to do as he commanded us to do. We should be a people of joy and peace in the world. In living the life that Christ commands us to live, we would be helping to bring that God-given gift into the world every day. This is what the world desires. This is what the world needs. Trust in God and do his will. This is the source of joy and peace.
Lord, we thank you for your love and for your mercy. We know that we often fall short of the Christian ideals that you taught us in your Son, Jesus. But you know our hearts. You know that we truly desire to be your disciples in this world with our daily lives. Strengthen us where we are weak. Give us the courage to trust more fully in you mercy and in your love. Help us to be the creatures you made us to be, so that we may come to know your joy and peace here and now. We ask these prayers in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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