by Father Mike Stubbs
What can bring us true joy? Does it depend upon the events of our life or the things that we own? Does it come and go, or is it something that can remain steady in our life?
In Sunday’s first reading, Is 8:23 – 9:3, the prophet looks forward to a time of great joy. He compares the future joy of the people to joys that they have previously experienced.
First of all, he mentions the joy they feel “as they rejoice before you as at the harvest.” This is simple. A good harvest would mean abundant food. A poor harvest could spell doom, hunger and starvation for the people. After all, there was no such thing as federally subsidized crop insurance.
This is the joy that results from physical well-being and the confidence that this state of affairs will continue.
The second comparison draws on the experience of their joy, “as people
make merry when dividing spoils.” The spoils in question would result from a victory in battle, as the saying goes: “To the victor belong the spoils.” A conquering army would confiscate all the goods that they could find – partly as compensation for their efforts in war and partly to ensure that the enemy could not return to power. There was no Geneva Convention. This is the joy that results from suddenly acquiring great wealth, hitting the jackpot, an unexpected bonus.
Finally, Isaiah refers to the experience of being liberated from servitude: “For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.” Their newfound freedom would bring the people joy, a sense of relief.
All these experiences of joy share one common point: they would result in an intense feeling. There was nothing mild about it. This joy would shine like a light in the midst of darkness: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”
As Christians, we interpret this light to be Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Consequently, the joy we would experience results from our relationship with him.
It is not a momentary happiness, however, which would depend upon the circumstances of our life, whether we are experiencing physical well-being, whether we enjoy material wealth.
True joy will flow from our relationship with Jesus Christ. It can last forever.
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