At the close of the Last Supper the evangelist John notes that Jesus prayed for the disciples. His prayer reflects some very poignant themes, some of which are the context of our Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

Noting the hostility of the world around them, and around us, toward the proclamation of his message and the mission he was entrusting to them and to the Church, Jesus prays that they be preserved from doubt.

As Jesus prepares his disciples for his suffering and Death, and as he sends them out into the world, he prays that they will know his joy. This is a remarkable juxtaposition from what one would expect in the face of the pending horror of his passion and of the challenges they are to face in the proclamation of the Gospel. Yet, nothing is more necessary in the face of despair, than is joy.

Pope Francis issued an apostolic exhortation, Gaudate et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad). Here he reflects on the fundamental call to holiness which is essential to the life of all of the baptized, and as was emphatically emphasized in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. In this exhortation Pope Francis dedicates a section (paragraphs 122-128) on “Joy and a sense of humor.”

In Paragraph 125 Francis writes: “Hard times may come, when the cross casts its shadow, yet nothing can destroy the supernatural joy that ‘adapts and changes, but always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved’[Evangelii Gaudium]. That joy brings deep security, serene hope and a spiritual fulfilment that the world cannot understand or appreciate.

A joy that lacks “deep security, serene hope and a spiritual fulfilment” cannot really be joy. Without depth what masks as joy is merely a burst of laughter in the midst of despair shrouding the underlying angst that is the bane of post-modernity.

Francis continues in paragraph 128: “This is not the joy held out by today’s individualistic and consumerist culture. Consumerism only bloats the heart. It can offer occasional and passing pleasures, but not joy. Here I am speaking of a joy lived in communion, which shares and is shared, since ‘there is more happiness in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35) and ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Cor 9:7). Fraternal love increases our capacity for joy, since it makes us capable of rejoicing in the good of others: ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice’ (Rom12:15). ‘We rejoice when we are weak and you are strong’ (2 Cor 13:9). On the other hand, when we ‘focus primarily on our own needs, we condemn ourselves to a joyless existence’” (Amoris Laetitia).

The world, Pope Francis notes, seeks joy in that which is passing. Consumerism, cosmetics, and hedonism become the substitution for joy, but ultimately they lead to failure. The quest for immortality is the search for the continuation of this life and this world, lacking the “sure and certain hope” of the true promise of eternal life.

Jesus desires that we know his joy. This is a joy that knows that even in the face of his coming Passion that there is the Resurrection. We must live out our lives in this same sense of a joyful hope. We know that it isn’t easy.  The passing joy of the world is seen as superior to the eternal joy that can often look more like suffering than joy. Yet, as Jesus prays for his disciples and so now for us, we can and do live in the expectations that such joy is a cornerstone of the life of faith and that we are freed from the cares of the world and its passing fancies and kept safe for eternal life and the Kingdom of God.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.