Imagine that you are Paul or Barnabas or one of the other apostles. Think about all the things they went through in that first reading. Paul hasn’t even been a Christian for very long, and already he is being hounded and persecuted. Maybe that makes sense because some people probably viewed his conversion as a kind of treason. Whatever the case, as they speak out boldly in the name of Jesus, they receive nothing but violent abuse from the Jews. So then they turn then to the Gentiles who were delighted to hear the Word preached to them. But the Jews didn’t even leave that alone; they stirred up some of the prominent Gentiles to persecute Paul and Barnabas and eventually they expelled them from their territory. What a horrible reception they received over and over again.
But, listen to the last line of that first reading again: “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”
Let that sink in for a minute: would that be your reaction? Or would you say, “enough is enough” and let God stir up someone else to preach the Word? Obviously, that’s not what Paul and Barnabas, or any of the other disciples did, or we wouldn’t be here today. No, they were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit, thanks be to God!
That’s the way joy works. It’s not something conditioned by the external events of a person’s life. Joy is not a feeling. Joy, instead, is a direct result of the disciple’s decision to give their life to Christ and to follow his way – wherever that may take him or her. Joy does not mean that the disciple won’t experience sadness or even hard times. But joy does mean that the disciple will never give in to the sadness or the hard times because all those things have been made new in Christ.
Christ is the source of our true joy. We disciples must choose to live lives of joy and remain unaffected by the world and the events of our lives. We choose joy because we know the One who is our Salvation, and because it is he who fills us with joy and the Holy Spirit. We have joy because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!