By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
Shout for joy, daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you; he has turned away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. (Zeph 3:14-15)
What a beautiful title this is! I really think it is my favorite of all Marian titles because the one thing that this wretched world desperately needs is joy. Suffering we have plenty of, let me tell you, and even when things are good, we sense that they are good only for a time before they will come crashing down again. I often comment with tongue in cheek as I feel the aches and pains of age: “There’s gotta be a better way!” And yes, Mary has given us that better way. She has given us the “Joy of Angels” and the Joy of the whole world to be our very own. There is no greater joy in heaven or on earth than the Son she gave us.
If we call to mind just a few of the moments that the Scriptures describe of Mary’s early life, we will see joy all over the place. The jubilant angels came singing in the night sky of Bethlehem when the Christ Child was born, and to this day we sing, “Joy to the World!” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!” in commemoration of the eternal joy that entered the world that night. When Mary went in haste to the hill country of Judea, her cousin Elizabeth exclaimed, “At the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy!” (Lk 1:44) Mary too soon after that said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Lk 1:47) Joy seems to accompany Mary wherever she goes!
The Psalmist asks God to “give us joy to balance our affliction for the years when we knew misfortune.” (Ps 90:15) That is perhaps the perennial cry of the human heart. But is it really possible for us to find joy amidst all the Sorrowful mysteries of our lives? I believe that is what Mary teaches us most beautifully. She does not come to take away the sufferings of this world—I often wish she would—but rather, she helps us find joy, peace, and tranquility within those same sufferings so that we can transform them into prayers.
I can think of many saintly priests that I have had the pleasure of knowing in my life who are witnesses that such joy is possible even within the sometimes extreme sufferings they endured. I met the saintly Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ, some years after he was released from his twenty-three-year sojourn in Siberian prison camps. Imagine being in Communist prison camps for almost a quarter of a century! Father was arrested on trumped up charges that he was a “Vatican spy,” but after his initial rebellion against the atheistic system, he accepted his trials as God’s way of purifying him and bringing him closer to Christ and his fellow man. Rarely have I seen a man more in tune with the Spirit of Christ and the joy that lies beneath the surface of all sufferings.
In his remarkable book, He Leadeth Me, Father recounts where he found strength and joy amidst his sufferings: “Mass and the Blessed Sacrament were…the source of my strength and joy and spiritual sustenance. But it was when I realized what the Holy Eucharist meant to these men, what sacrifices they were willing to make for it, that I felt animated, privileged, driven to make it possible for them to receive this bread of life as often as they wished. No danger, no risk, no retaliation could prevent my saying Mass each day for them.” This holy man, tested to the extreme, found the depths of Joy in so much suffering.
Truly joy is everywhere in the world if we look for it, but as Christians we don’t have to look very far. Our Mother Mary is here with us and bestows that spiritual joy on any who ask. Sometimes it is in the consolation of humor or the deep beauty of a child. At other times joy is found in the embrace of suffering for others and the cleansing of one’s soul. Whatever the source in this world, we can look to Mother Mary as the “Cause of our Joy” because she has lavished upon us the greatest Joy of all, Christ, the Joy of the entire world whose love conquered sin, suffering—and even death.
Mother of our souls and “Cause of Our Joy,” graciously fill our lives with the joy of knowing Christ, and let that joy flow over into a world tainted by sin and evil. May our joy scatter the forces of darkness around us and lead us safely into the Kingdom of Joy in the world to come. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]