by Father John Catoir
Everyone knows that Christians are supposed to be joyful for Easter. The feast of the Resurrection is at the heart of our faith. But what if you’re feeling down because of illness, or the loss of a loved one, or for some other reason? How can you pick yourself up?
Let’s turn to St. Paul for some advice. How do you think he would guide a person of faith, one who isn’t really up to the challenge of spiritual joy? Remember his words, “Rejoice always, in all circumstances give thanks to the Lord, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16).
Perhaps Paul knew something about Human Psychology 101; namely, that our emotions, the feelings we experience, are directly related to the thoughts we think. For example, if you allow yourself to think that you’re worthless, you will begin to feel sad. Feelings follow thoughts.
Knowing this, St. Paul offered an excellent remedy for sadness. He instructed us to control our thoughts. Here, in Philippians 4:8, is the good advice of St. Paul:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think about these things.”
This level of spiritual thinking will enable you to live your faith more fully. Do not settle for half a loaf, put your imagination to work and come alive.
What is true? Jesus is true God and true man. He died for your sins and His grace is given freely. You may have to work to grow in virtue, like the body-builder who labors to build muscles, but you do not have to work to attain God’s grace. Simply ask God for what you need.
What is noble? Your life of faith; it tells you that you have a profoundly personal relationship with Almighty God. This relationship is based on His love for you. Therefore you are not a poor helpless creature caught in the storms of life. You are cherished and loved, and you have a mighty protector in heaven.
What is right? It is right and just that you give glory and thanks to Almighty God, who has prepared a place for you in heaven. You owe Him the ‘duty of delight.’ Rejoice in His presence in gratitude for all that He has done for you.
What is pure? God’s holiness is pure. What is even more breathtakingly pure is the fact that your holiness depends more on God’s love for you than on your love for Him. You don’t have to force feelings of any kind. True love is in the will.
What is lovely? It’s lovely to be human. God’s beauty is lovely. We see it reflected throughout all of creation. Your favorite pet shows forth the face of God every time it looks lovingly into your eyes.
What is admirable? You are admirable. Your good intentions are admirable. Your good deeds are even more admirable. Your destiny with God for all eternity is admirable and wonderful. That is why Jesus said, “I have told you all these things that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
Father Catoir, a native of Jackson Heights, is a retired priest of the Paterson Diocese and former director of The Christophers.