|Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say
it again: rejoice!... Have no anxiety at all.
A Spiritual Reflection Rev. Maurice J. Nutt, C.Ss.R., D.Min.
|A hallmark of Christianity is joy. We believe that
salvation was won by Christ's death and resurrection. Our sins have
been forgiven and hope has been restored. This belief, however, isn't
always expressed in our lives.
The skeptic will ask, "Why should I be joyful? Our nation was
terrorized on September 11, 2001. The economy is uncertain. People have
died of anthrax. America is at war. Crime and violence still exist.
Give me a reason for rejoicing!"
I suggest Philippians 4:4-7.
That Surpasses Understanding
St. Paul sets before the Philippians two great qualities of the
The first is joy. Imagine: This great evangelist could conjure up
thoughts of joy while lying in prison facing possible death. Paul's
concern was not with his own peril but with the Christians in Philippi.
They were setting out on the Christian way and Paul knew that dangers
and persecutions lay ahead.
Nonetheless, Paul asserts (and I paraphrase), "I know what I'm saying.
I've thought of everything that can possibly happen. And I still say,
rejoice!" Christian joy is independent of all things on earth because
it has its source in the continual presence of Christ.
Secondly, in verse five, Paul writes, "Your kindness should be known to
all." The Greek word for kindness is epieikeia. It is difficult to
translate epieikeia. The Greeks explained it as "justice and something
better than justice." Epieikeia basically means that a person knows
when not to apply the strict letter of the law, to introduce mercy.
Christians, as Paul sees it, know that there is something beyond
justice. They know that something is God's mercy. We rejoice because
justice demands what we truly deserve, but epieikeia looks beyond to
meet us in our need.
For the Philippians, life was bound to be a "worrying" thing. Besides
life's normal cares, they also worried about the threat of death
because they were now Christians. Paul tells them that the result of
believing prayer is that "the peace of God that surpasses all
understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
This peace is so precious that the mind, with all its skill, can never
produce it. It's only of God's giving.
Before the Blessing Comes
Rather than rejoicing after we have received a blessing, we are called
to confidence that we shall be blessed! The result of such joy is
victory over the oppressive situations we face as we enter into the
Victorious and abundant life is the blessing we get from rejoicing. The
primal purpose is recreated. We return to where we were created to be,
where Adam and Eve were before the Fall, where Jesus was after the
When God has intervened in our lives, we cannot explain what has
happened. All we know is that the space we thought was cluttered with
debris and rubble has been cleared.
Be sure that nothing you face in life is too hard for God. Be free of
your worry and doubt. We are renewed, revived and ready to rejoice!
Paul's Letter to the Philippians is often described as three letters in
one: a letter of thanks, thoughts from prison and a scolding.
Philippians 4:4-7 is from the most important part of this letter, which
also includes 1:1—3:1 and 4:21-23, written from prison.
He has heard that the Philippians, in the Roman province of Macedonia
(now part of Greece), are taking a lot of grief for their beliefs.
Their moral strength is also being tested by internal tensions and
This letter, perhaps Paul's warmest and most pastoral communication, is
full of good cheer, which especially inspires when his circumstances
are recalled. This is definitely a letter written to friends.