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Good morning,

I would like to ask you to explain in detail what Christian joy consists of. I’ve witnessed people badmouth, slander, spread discord in my parish, bring others down in order to exalt themselves, refuse to apologize because everything they do is holy and brag about having Christian joy since they are in communion with God.
Recently, the Pope said that people who spread discord are unhappy…
To be honest, I see those people happy, content, satisfied and surrounded by friends.
How come? Homilies on this subject do not specify that the sign of true communion with God is love and that joy can be deceiving.
In my parish there’s a lady who suffers from depression. She hardly ever smiles, never talks, doesn’t slander, doesn’t bring people down. They badmouth her because she’s sad (she has a lot of problems that have no solution). Where do you think the truth lies? I’m confused… Thank you for your answer, you can publish it, if you want. Pray for me and for those who are suffering.


Priest’s answer

Dear friend,

1. A Christian lives in joy or, to be more precise, in interior joy.
However, we can say about joy what Saint Thomas says about charity: charity is love, but not every love is charity.
This means a Christian should always live in joy but, from that, it doesn’t follow that every joy is Christian. 

2. There are kinds of joy which are born from sin, from carelessness, from following one’s own whims.
These don’t constitute true joy, but are simply momentary pleasures.

3. Christian joy is characterized by certain specific contents that were expressed in Saint Thomas’ commentary on the epistle of Saint Paul to the Philippians.
While commenting “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4), Saint Thomas says that Christian joy has four characteristics: 

  • First, it must be right, this happens when it concerns the proper good of man, which is not something created, but God.
  • Secondly, it is continuous; hence he says, always, “Rejoice always”. This happens when it is not interrupted by sin, for then it is continuous. But sometimes it is interrupted by temporal sadness, which signifies the imperfection of joy. For when a person rejoices perfectly, his joy is not interrupted, because he cares little about things that do not last…
  • Thirdly, it should be multiple, for if you rejoice in God, you will rejoice in His incarnation: “I bring you good news of a great joy, which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior” (Lk 2:10); and in your own activity; and in your contemplation. Again, if you rejoice in your good, you will be prepared to rejoice in the good of others; if you rejoice in the present, you are prepared to rejoice in the future…
  • Fourthly, it should be moderate (spiritual) and not flooded with pleasures, as happens in worldly joy; hence he says, let all men know your forbearance.

4. The joy you see in people who badmouth or slander others is not a Christian joy, because it doesn’t hold the Lord as its object.

It’s just a momentary pleasure, usually followed by emptiness and bitterness for having talked badly about others.

5. There are cases of depression even among some good Christians.
We should refrain from passing any judgment.
It could be that the Lord is permitting that depression for the internal purification of the person or for His own designs.
In any case, making fun of people suffering from depression is never acceptable.
It’s a real illness.
It could happen to us as well.

I wish you to always have a heart full of joy due to the presence of Jesus as the main reason.
To this end, I assure you of my prayers for you and bless you.

Father Angelo