I think it’s possible to be a little bit frustrated when we first hear the message from St. Paul this morning: “Rejoice! Again, I say rejoice!” See, be filled with joy. Most of us probably have discovered that being joyful isn’t something you can suddenly be by sort of pushing a button. You know, if you’re really discouraged and frustrated and upset and things are going badly, how do you suddenly be joyful?
Well, St. Paul does go on to tell us how it might be possible. The first thing he says: “Pray always.” Pray always, and especially, he says, “Pray with gratitude; always be thankful.” See, he’s trying to get us to go kind of deeply into our spirit life and to understand that everything we have — not even these things are not all that good at times. Our very life, our very existence, everything is a gift from God, and so we should be thankful, and being thankful can lead to joyfulness. But even more, Paul says, to not quench the spirit. He’s reminding us that the spirit of Jesus lives within each one of us.
And perhaps you recall what Jesus said at the Last Supper. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure, but in John’s Gospel he has a long discussion with his disciples — a time of profound sadness for Jesus because he was facing a cruel torture and death. But he could still say to the disciples, as the conversation comes to an end, “I’ve told you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” Even at that very moment of profound sadness, deep within the spirit of Jesus was a joy without limit, a sense of peace because he was so in touch with God….