Pray always so we can rejoice always Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends:

In our Second Reading of this past Sunday (1 Thessalonians 5), we hear: “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and “Pray without ceasing.” The idea of rejoicing always is, from a human point of view, unthinkable, without that second half: pray without ceasing.

One of the Christmas cards that I opened recently said simply this: “Bishop, please pray for us. It’s been tough.”

How is that person, from a human point of view, expected to rejoice? The answer is, they’re not.

And consider St. John the Baptist. If you go through his teaching, mentioned in the Gospels, you will see that never once did he tell a joke. So, there was a sort of rejoicing from a human point of view, in which St. John the Baptist did not indulge.

Yet, John was full of joy, just as the family who wrote me the card is called to be full of joy, the family for whom things have been pretty tough.

Joy doesn’t come in isolation from other gifts

But, as I said, even for those for whom rejoicing is difficult, prayer is always the solution. And what does that mean? Joy is certainly not something superficial and it’s not a gift that comes in isolation from other gifts.

As a matter of fact, St. Paul says, now the Fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

Joy doesn’t come alone. Joy is number two of 12. And, of course, 12 is one of those “perfect numbers” meaning everything in the Bible. So, to have the Fruits of the Holy Spirit is to have everything.

Praying always

But joy doesn’t come alone. Joy comes with all the others, as a fruit of the Spirit — only when we pray always. And what is necessary for praying?

First of all, faith is necessary, faith in God. The virtue of faith in God, which is a Theological Virtue (meaning that it comes from God), gives us faith that the “tough times” like the ones of which that family wrote to me are not the end of the story. Those tough times are not the final word.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, in the Holy Spirit is the last word. Without faith there can be no joy, and once we have that faith that any suffering or trouble in this world is not final, then we have hope. And if we’re going to pray always, we’ve got to be hopeful.

It’s a terrible thing when people lose hope. And the favorite temptation of the Devil, especially for younger women and men, is the temptation to lose hope, the temptation to give in to discouragement.

Losing hope means not praying. Praying is an act of faith. Praying is an act of hope. And if one has both faith and hope, the joy lives itself out in charity.

We say, in effect, “I know that my own problems and troubles are not the end of the story.” And so, in charity, we put our own troubles aside and try to accompany others who are also troubled, possibly to an even greater degree.

Rejoice always means pray always, means be filled with the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and with the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Apart from that context there is no joy. Unless one is able to pray always, there can never be any joy.

Let us pray this Christmas, for perseverance in prayer, that we might have the faith to “pray always,” so that we might “rejoice always.”

May you and yours have a blessed Christmas. Christ is born to us. O Come let us adore Him! Praised be Jesus Christ!