“I want to be happy” is a common dictum in modern times. If we want to be happy– truly joyful, then we must be holy, and this effusive rejoicing comes about as a result. During his Angelus for November 30, 1986, Saint Pope John Paul II famously declared: “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” It is easy for people of faith to become distracted and sidelined by worldly concerns. However, we must recall that finding joy by being a disciple of Jesus Christ should be our default setting, not the exception. Here are eight easy ways to keep your Easter joy throughout the year. After all: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).
1. Love the Eucharist
At a minimum, go to mass every Sunday and on holy days of obligation. Although this is a canonical “requirement” for Catholics, we should not ever view the mass as simply something that we “have” to do; rather, we should see every Sunday as a mini-Easter, and therefore an occasion for true joy. Try to go to daily mass on weekdays if you can, and go to Eucharistic adoration whenever possible.
2. Go to confession frequently
Make frequent recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation. Get those sins off of your soul. There is nothing quite like the joy that comes with being in God’s good graces, with a guilt-free conscience, since sin only hampers and impedes actual joy.
3. Read more of the Bible and high-quality Catholic books
Read thirty minutes of the Bible and/or other spiritual reading every day. Many, if not most, of the saints had a deep devotion to reading the Word of God and supplementing that with reflecting on the writings of past and contemporary spiritual masters. Don’t have enough time to read? Baloney. If you have time to catch your favorite show(s) on Netflix, or today’s two-hundredth post filling your social media newsfeeds, then you can spare thirty minutes a day. Dare to enjoy (emphasis on the root word joy) profound reading in an increasingly superficial age.
4. Authentically connect with family members and friends
The practice of holy friendship between disciples should begin with those closest to you. Reach out to those who need a reminder that they are loved, especially your family members. Share your faith with others. Your loving presence in others’ lives not only brings them joy, but will bring you joy as well. Fellowship is a critical aspect of fidelity to the Gospel. Especially reach out to those who have been far from the Church and the practice of the sacramental life. Introduce yourself to someone new at the monthly “Donut Sunday” after mass – anyone at Donut Sunday is good company to keep!
Spend less time in front of a screen (well, at least once you have finished reading and sharing this piece). The average American, at least as of the adolescent years, spends hours of every day in front of an electronic screen – whether a smart phone, a tablet, a personal computer, a video game console, or some other type of electronic device. Televisions, of course, can be included in this. Do not get sucked into that political back-and-forth in the controversial comments on your friend’s incendiary Facebook status, and instead take a walk in a forest to enjoy the goodness of God’s creation.
6. Say “please” and “thank you”
You would be surprised how effective these terms are at giving you enduring peace and joy. Being a more grateful person takes hardly any energy, but makes you exceedingly more joyful in the process. Look for opportunities to express sincere gratitude. Write a “thank you” note whenever you have someone in mind to whom you would like to express your thankfulness. Make a special effort to reach out to those who may seem either unappreciated or unappreciative (the latter might be a challenge, but remember to be the more mature person – others might be inspired by your example). On that note, as Saint Paul reminds us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5).
7. Know your Catholic faith better
The world needs Catholics who are more familiar with the key tenets of their faith. Make an effort to become better versed on what the Catholic Church teaches about certain dogmas and doctrines. This is greatly supplemented by orthodox spiritual reading (see #3). The most vital texts, such as the Bible and the Catechism, are always available for free online. You cannot express the fullness of joy if you do not even know why you should be joyful in the first place (hint: remember Saint John Paul II’s wise words that appear in the opening paragraph of this piece).
8. Make small sacrifices throughout the year
Did you treat this past Lent as a contest? We try to lose a few pounds, hoping to “hold out” by not eating any ice cream until Easter, only to fall back into gluttonous habits before the wax on the Easter candle has cooled. No matter what you “gave up,” strive to consistently practice the cardinal virtue of temperance year-round. Your moderation will give you more time and resolve to ensure that you are drawing others to participate in the joy found solely in following the Lord Jesus Christ: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
By Justin McClain