Monday, October 25, 2010

Always Rejoice

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Philippians 4: 4

It seems to me that a lot of the time people do things (or don’t do things) based more on how they are feeling at the moment than on anything else. For instance, we eat when we feel hungry or we sleep when we feel tired. Nothing wrong with this. But what about doing things that are immoral just because we feel like it. Or what if there are things we should do, but don’t, just based on our feelings. For instance, I think people have sex outside of marriage just because they feel like it or they feel in love. Or on the flip side, I think people sometimes don’t pray or go to Mass because they don’t feel like it. So you see the potential danger: our feelings can be very fickle.

Now here comes St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians saying that we should rejoice always.  And in case you missed it, he tells us again. Notice the lack of clarification on his part. He doesn’t say, “Rejoice in the Lord when you feel like it” or “Rejoice in the Lord when things are going really well for you”. No, he says rejoice always; without any wiggle room. Is he insane? You might be thinking “Obviously he has never felt suffering, or pain, or loneliness, because you couldn’t rejoice when you are feeling that way.” But a closer examination of his life from Scripture reveals to us that St. Paul knew all about suffering, and pain and loneliness. And yet even in those times of imprisonment and torture and even at the moment of his execution, he rejoiced. Always.

How is this possible? How can you and I rejoice when someone is making fun of us? Or when we are grieving the death of a loved one? Or when we lose a job, get a bad grade or get cut from the team we tried out for?

Think of it this way. Recently I saw a documentary on North Korea. The people of that country actually worship their leader. They don’t just see him as a human general, but as a god. And for many of them it doesn’t even seem to cross their minds to think anything negative about him. In all things, good or bad, they praise him and his name. They will literally bow down before his photo and raise their hands in the air and jump up and down and sing songs to him and shout out praises and accolades to him. In other words, they rejoice. What’s crazy is that many of the people doing this live in extreme poverty, have little adequate health care and can hope for no better in their lives than what they currently experience. Why do they still rejoice? Out of fear and from being brainwashed. For the country is also filled with hundreds of “work camps” where men, women and even children are forced to live and are worked to death, either because they or their loved ones did not “rejoice”, or tried to resist, or tried to escape.

Isn’t it amazing that out of fear and a lack of freedom, these people will rejoice in their god no matter their circumstances. But we, who are asked to live in the unconditional love of our heavenly Father in true freedom, find it hard to rejoice in Him when we don’t feel like it or when life gets hard. Our God loves us and wills nothing but goodness for us, even when we don’t see it or the big picture—and even in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear, let’s prove it by rejoicing always!!

Dear Jesus, I praise You and I rejoice in the life You have given me, no matter what circumstances or situations I find myself in this day. By Your grace, may I always rejoice in Your perfect love. Amen.

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