The kind of faith that makes us laugh with joy

This is the time of year that we Sisters affectionately refer to as “solemnity season.” For several Sundays in a row now, we have had a special solemnity: the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven, followed by the celebration of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the disciples, followed by the celebration of the Most Holy Trinity last Sunday, and to be followed by the celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist this Sunday. 

Then, we also will have the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus next Friday, as well as the Nativity of St. John the Baptist later this month. The Church in her wisdom gives us these times of special joyful festivity of some of the most central mysteries of our faith.

As Catholics, we know that it is appropriate to rejoice — to be filled with joy — in light of the marvelous deeds the Lord has done for us. Once during the life of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, St. Dominic’s successor as master of the Dominican Order, a group of young Dominicans were laughing through much of the friars’ prayers. An older friar disapprovingly suggested that Master Jordan should correct the novices for their disruption of the prayers. But Blessed Jordan responded, “Let them laugh. It is right that they should laugh, since they have thrown off the devil’s thralldom.”

As Christians, we should rejoice because if we are living by the grace of our baptism, alive in sanctifying grace, responding docilely to the Holy Spirit present within us, the devil has no real power over us. We have died to sin and are alive for God in Christ Jesus (cf. Romans 6:11). Therefore, we are different from the rest of the world; our lives have literally been transformed by grace.

Sometimes, people mistakenly think that they have to white-knuckle their way through the spiritual life, that to be holy they have to push against their natural inclinations. But while the fallen aspects of our human nature need to be transformed by grace in conjunction with a life of penance, ultimately our nature desires to be happy. And true happiness is not an obstacle to holiness but is rather precisely what God wills to give us and is a genuine sign of His life within us. Living the spiritual life of grace is meant to lead us not to seriousness or gloom but to deep, overflowing joy! 

If we allow ourselves to be transformed continually by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, by the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity within us, by frequent contact with Our Lord in adoration and in worthy receptions of Holy Communion, by the burning love of the Heart of Christ, we will radiate true joy to the world. One priest recently described the joy of one of our Sisters as an “easy joy,” that is, a joy that simply flows from within her, originating from her relationship with the Lord. May this same joyful witness shine forth from all Christians, stemming from the fact that we have “thrown off the devil’s thralldom” and been born into new life with Christ. 

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.