“The disciples were filled with JOY and with the Holy Spirit.”  Acts 13:52

Ahhh….so that is how the original 12 were able to spread the word of God and to grow our Church!  They were filled with JOY!!!  And I can’t imagine that the times in which they lived were any easier than those in which we are currently living.

I am convinced that the Holy Spirit was present when 14 women gathered around a table in 2019 to brainstorm themes for the 2020 Maryland Catholic Women’s Conference.  At that meeting, we concluded that the current world climate could use a little JOY.  Times were stressful and we wanted to lift women as they navigated problems and obstacles in life that may prevent them from experiencing the complete JOY of Jesus Christ.

Fast forward to today and I can’t even remember what seemed to be so daunting back then that would have caused us to determine that JOY was needed.  Things in the world have deteriorated so rapidly in the past ten months.  Whatever the challenges were back then, they seem like a piece of cake compared to where we are currently.  If we had known in 2019 what the next year held, it’s possible that we would have concluded that it would be impossible to talk about JOY in 2020.  We may have even abandoned all plans for having a Conference.

BUT, the JOY we were referring to is the JOY that comes from having the Holy Spirit live in us.  It is the JOY that transcends pandemics and racial tensions and political fighting and disappointments due to cancelled celebrations and in person Mass and in person school.  Yes, this JOY, the JOY of the Gospel, comes from a relationship with Jesus and knowing we are made and loved by Him.  It is the JOY that comes from living out our Catholic faith and it is the JOY that allows us to continue to make disciples, no matter the circumstances.  Sometimes it requires us to dig just a little deeper to experience that JOY, but, as Christian women, it is always there and it is what sustains us.

So, we now understand that the Holy Spirit led us to choose JOY as the theme because it is just what we need to hear about and spread to others in these challenging times.  We need people who don’t know Christ to wonder, “What is it that these women have that they can remain JOY-filled despite what is happening in the world around them?”

JOY, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is especially important to me because it was fundamental to my “re-conversion.”  As a life-long Catholic, I dutifully practiced my faith in an obligatory, rule following manner.  It wasn’t until several years ago that I came to learn of the truths and beauty of our faith that led me to find so much JOY.  I learned these truths and the related beauty through my local parish, women’s Catholic Bible studies, on-line Catholic resources, etc.  However, it is the JOY-filled Catholic women in my life who make it easier to remain full of JOY.  They are holy, faith-filled, praying, Catholic “rule following” women, but they are also filled with amazing JOY, only explicable by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. These women are fun to be around.  We pray, learn more about the Bible, take Pilgrimages, attend daily Mass, minister to others, share faith struggles, and attend Catholic events. We also laugh…a lot, actually.  (“Sarah said ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.'” Genesis 21:6) After all, in a world where there can be so much to grumble and complain about, no one really wants to be around grumblers and complainers.  JOY is contagious and we have every reason to be JOY-filled. We have the best news out there: we are loved and saved by Christ.  No worldly ill can take that away from us. We need to spread that good news, just as the original disciples did.  “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take JOY in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:18