There was a time in the history of the Roman Catholic Church when priests were not allowed to give a homily at a wedding. Rather, after the ceremony, the priest would read a passage, called “Rituale Romanum”, instructions given on the day of marriage. A couple of lines in this passage really stand out for me:
Sacrifice is usually difficult and irksome. Only love can make it easy, and perfect love can make it a joy.
Since love and joy are related as fruits of the Spirit and since sacrifice is a requirement for love, then there is a connection between not only joy and love but joy and sacrifice. This short Catholic quote beautifully connects all three. Certainly, sacrifice can be difficult and frustrating. The more we love, the easier sacrifice becomes. This makes sense. When we really love someone, we don’t mind making sacrifices for them. However, a sacrifice is still a sacrifice. It requires giving up something.
When we seek to perfect love, then sacrifice becomes a joy. This applies in marriage. It applies, I believe, to other relationships. And it applies to our relationship with God. The real joy comes from “giving it all.”
No athlete who competes likes to lose. That is a fact. People compete in order to win. However, there are examples of athletes who have won and felt no joy. And there are athletes who have lost and have felt joy. How is that, you might wonder. Well, let’s say on the winning team, there are athletes who don’t get into the game. They might not feel very joyful because while their team won, they didn’t contribute. Then there are athletes who have competed and didn’t fare well, even though their team eventually won. One example is Ron Darling, a baseball pitcher for the 1986 Mets, who started game 7 of the World Series. He got to be on the biggest stage for a baseball player and he pitched poorly. Yet, his team came back to win the game. Thirty years later he wrote a book about his feelings about that game.
The athlete who competes and “leaves it all on the field” might lose, but may actually feel joy, because they “gave it all.” There is great joy that comes from making a great sacrifice. The more you give, the more joy you have. Give everything you have to something, give all the effort you can muster, and you can walk away with joy. Sacrifice everything and you’ll have a greater sense of love, but you’ll also have a greater sense of joy.
We talked in our section on love about how perfect love casts out all fear. Well, perfect love also spawns pure joy.
When I first started writing this series on the Fruit of the Spirit, I was erroneously writing “Fruits of the Spirit.” The actual term is “Fruit of the Spirit,” because there is one Spirit that produces several kinds of fruit. (If used in the context of counting, like the second of the “fruits” of the Spirit is joy, then it is correct to say “fruits”). So, if we envision the Spirit like a huge fruit tree, and from its branches hang all the fruit, then, while the names of the fruits are different, all are interrelated because they come from the same Spirit. Sacrifice is a component of love, and joy is related to love. Thus sacrifice grows not only love but spawns joy.
The more we give, the more joy we have. Saint Paul said in Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” To love is to sacrifice. To sacrifice is to give. And to give is to have joy.
Lord, thank You for the love You have given to me. Thank You for those who love me. Help me learn what it means to give to others, and what it means to give to You, so that in sacrificial giving, I may perfect love and find true joy. Amen.
Make a sacrifice for someone today and see how you’ll take away joy from that gift.