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December 1990

Rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil. 4:4)

For St Paul this short exhortation is very important. Indeed, here it sounds more like a command than an exhortation and so it comes as even more of a surprise to us. In fact, we might ask ourselves, can a feeling or a spiritual condition as spontaneous as joy be summoned on demand? Is it possible to command someone to be joyful always?

The answer depends on the kind of joy we are talking about. There is a kind of joy which comes when things are going well for us and which does not depend on us. But there is another kind of joy which is linked to particular inner attitudes which can depend on us. It is this Joy that St Paul is referring to.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

The joy St Paul is speaking about is the joy generated in us by the Holy Spirit, the gift Jesus obtained for us by his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus never falls to give us this joy if we are truly united to him, following his example and living his word in a radical way. Above all he gives us this joy if we generously follow him on the way of the cross.

It is particularly significant that St Paul wrote these words in the midst of great difficulties. He was in prison; he had nothing and feared for his life. With these words, therefore, he proves to us that if we embrace everything in union with Jesus, no difficulty or persecution, or even death itself, can take from us the joy and peace which come from Jesus. On the contrary these things make our joy and peace grow more and more.

Rejoice in the Lord always.

It is very clear what this month's Word of Life means and how we are to live it.

It urges us to be spiritually alert and active. It calls us to live our Christian life fully and not half-heartedly, especially the command to love our neighbour. It urges us to embrace the inevitable difficulties, crosses and trials of life, with all our heart, seeing in them the face of Jesus crucified, so that we may always merit the special fruit of the Holy Spirit which is joy. In fact, joy is the sign of the fullness of Christian life in us and is a proof to non-believers of our coherence to the Gospel.

Let's resolve then as Christians to bear witness to joy in the world.

Chiara Lubich



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