Joy and thanksgiving seem like corny, melodramatic words. But they have a deep and rich importance in our human experience, and it's important to grow in our understanding of them, and to express them in our life.
All good things are of God.
Every good thing. Every thing that is good in our lives is of God. It doesn't merely come from God—but that too—it is of God. It happens because God is.
We can easily lose sight of that. It's easy for us to be ungrateful to God for the good things in our lives, because we don't count them as good things, we just reduce them to things that are normal to our experience. But take those "normal" things away, and you'll see immediately just how good they are, and how fortunate and loved by God you are to have them.
What do you enjoy in your life? What is good in your life? Really think about that. Think hard, and consider the small things, not the large things. Do you enjoy sitting with your coffee in the morning? Do you enjoy a relaxing walk? When you first go outside in the morning and see that it's going to be a beautiful day, does it delight you? Do you take a deep breath, look around you and say "Wow, what a beautiful day"? Do you enjoy moments of good conversation, or time with your family? Did anything happen to you today to make you smile or laugh, or to make you feel a little less burdened mentally or emotionally, even if just for a moment? These good things are possible only because God is. He is Goodness itself, and goodness in our lives only happens because reality proceeds from God's very being. Whether he is directly involved (which He sometimes is) or not, goodness in our lives exists because of God.
That sunrise that delights you, the flowers that perfume the air and speckle the world around you with beauty...God did that. It's His design. Your capacity to accept and appreciate beauty, your capacity to be intrigued, to laugh at a joke because you have a sense of humor...these are characteristics of your human person, and God created that. Your capacity to give love, and to receive love is God's design. Your capacity to discern goodness and beauty is God's doing.
At the end of every day, remember to give thanks to God for specific good things in your life, and for specific good things that you experienced in that day. Even if you [think you] had a bad day, you'll find that having a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the good things in your life will change your outlook and opinion of your day, of your life, and of your own value and worth.
Joy is not a feeling. Feeling joyful is one of the fruits of being joyful, but being joyful doesn't always mean we will feel like we're floating on a cloud with emotional joyfulness. So what is joy? I'm not really sure 😐
Understanding joy and it's true and deep meaning has always been a challenge for me. We hear about it in homilies, but the priest never seems to explain it. I know some things about joy, though. I know that joy is connected to a spirit of gratitude, so if you don't have a thankful, grateful spirit, you'll find joy almost impossible to experience. I also know that joy is not an emotion. I know that it's an attitude of being rather than an emotion or feeling. And I know that when I am experiencing joy the most clearly (but I'm sure not exclusively) is when I receive the sacraments.
I'm joyful at the reception of the Eucharist. I'm joyful every time I come out of the confessional. These sacraments show me how much God loves me, and therefor how intrinsically lovable I am. They show me how much God values me, and by extension how I must therefor value others, since he loves them the same. And those sacraments are indispensable tools in my journey to grow in virtue and holiness; so it's not just that they show me God's love for me, but they also help me to love and care for what God has made in me—my soul, my person. Because without those sacraments, I would wither away.
How we are healed and made whole again when the priest recites the prayer of absolution! How we are nourished by the most holy Eucharist! How we are empowered to be a little closer, and closer, and closer to God, and how we are more, and more enabled to change our sinful natures to become more like Him! It's just absolutely amazing! It's amazing how no sin is above God's mercy and no sinner is too hopeless to be nourished and refreshed by the body of Christ Himself.
That is the cause of my joy. The amazing thing that happens at every altar during every mass, in every church throughout the world. The wonderful thing that takes place at every confession when the priest raises his hand over a penitent and recites the prayer of absolution which ends with "may the Lord grant you pardon and peace..." and "I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"
Be joyful and thankful to God. To the God of Heaven and earth give thanks, for his love and mercy endure forever (Psalm 136)
Ave Maria, Virgo Fidelis!