Vol I No. 7
From the Quarterly

Easter III: Thomas Aquinas with Commentary

by William J. Martin



The world shall rejoice, and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. (St. John xvi. 20.)

THREE things are noted in these words. Firstly, the foolishness of the worldly, The world will rejoice…I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What good is it? (Eccles.ii. 2), Secondly, the wisdom of the saints: Ye shall be sorrowful….The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning: but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Eccles. vii. 4) Thirdly, the future song of the saints, Your sorrow shall be turned into joy…, Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh. (St. Luke vi. 21)

  1. On the first head it is to be noted, that three things show the joy of the worldly to be foolish:                                    a. The time, for the present is not the time of rejoicing but of weeping: A time to weep and a time to laugh. (Eccles. iii. 4) The time of weeping is put first, to indicate that the present is this time, a time to laugh is added afterwards to signify that the future will be the time of joy ; for now, indeed, is the time of weeping and of mourning over sins.

The present life is meant to be the time for contrition and penitential sorrow over sin. We must take a moral inventory of our lives each and every day. If we would grow in sanctification through the Holy Spirit, we must be mourning over our sins here and now. We must mourn for our disobedience to God, failure to fear Him alone, and our falling short of reflecting His will and desire for us in our thoughts, words, and works. We must mourn also for those sins through which we have hurt our neighbor. We must mourn finally over those sins through which we have dishonored, disrespected, and disgraced the Image and Likeness of God in others and in ourselves. So we must be mourning and confessing our sins each day as we die to the world, the flesh, the devil, and ourselves. Those who seek and obtain joy in this life are more likely than not to become foolish worldlings whose ongoing pursuit of this world’s happiness is but a sad imitation of the joy which true mourning will yield at the latter day

         b.That this world is a place of sadness, and not of joy. In his heart he hath disposed to ascend by steps in a vale            of tears, in the place which he hath set. (Ps. Ixxxiii. 6,7) An angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, into the place of weepers. (Judg. Ii. 1)

Sadness is a virtue characteristic of those who are not alive to this world but alive to the joy that is yet for to come. Sadness is a virtue that reveals man’s honest summation this world and those who worship it. So a truly pious man mourns over those who do not yet know God. He mourns that others are distracted and carried away but the purveyors of wickedness and its ways. He mourns because too many men set there hearts ‘on the changes and chances of this fleeting world’ and ‘do not see that their hearts should surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found’, even upon the will of God. He mourns that the devil has so many in his grip. He mourns until all eyes are opened to the Grace of God in the Redemptive life of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

c.They joy in evil. Who rejoice to do evil. Prov. ii. 14 The foolishness of the joy of the worldly is sufficiently manifest, since they rejoice in a time of sadness, in a place of misery, in the doing evil. S. Augustine says, What is the joy of this world? say briefly, unchasteness, worthlessness, cheating, to do that which is base, to be gorged with feasting.

The false gods which men of the world pursue make them lovers of evil. For they treat the sources and causes of earthly pleasure, delight, and joy as ends in themselves. And so they misuse the creation and worship it instead of the Creator. Thus they sin. For what they do is to embrace a limited and particular good in alienation from its Divinely ordained and intended purpose. The things of this world then become false gods that ensure temporary satisfaction alone. The worshipers of them become idolaters. And so such men are counted foolish because that do not treat and use creation as a means for deeper knowledge of and dependence upon God.

  1. On the second head, and on the other hand, it is to be noted, that the wise are sad for three reasons

a. By sadness the evil of man is corrected. By the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. (Eccles. vii. 3)

Sadness over sin brings humility and meekness. Humility and meekness lead from contrition through confession to satisfaction. A man is broken through sorrow, he confess the evil that he has done, and he is given penance in order to be renewed by God’s Grace. The broken heart is thus opened to God’s desire to heal and save. Evil is overcome by the goodness that the Grace of God brings in forgiveness and newness of life to man who is made wise by knowing himself and the God in whom alone he finds his perfection and happiness.

b. By momentary sadness man escapes eternal torment. St. Gregory the Great says, The Saints regard this present life as a gain, because by this they know that they will not escape eternal life;, The Prophet says, I have afflicted thee, I will afflict thee no more. (Nahum i. 13)

Through the fiery caldron of suffering and repentance a man comes to see this life as a great gift. In this life he finds that he can begin to die the first spiritual death to sin, death, and Satan. In this life he welcomes the opportunity to come to know himself truly, to learn from his mistakes, and to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Affliction is but that suffering that enables a man to die daily unto sin and to come alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

c. By a mean measure of justice they acquire eternal joys: For our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. (2 Cor. iv. 17, 18)

The sorrowful and contrite heart desires for Jesus Christ to become His Judgment beginning here and now. Christ is the Word of God, and thus is the Measure by which we are judged on in our earthly pilgrimage to the His Heavenly Kingdom. We are thus rebuked, chastened, punished, disciplined, and corrected by the rod of Mother Church that we might be found amenable and accustomed to the judgment of Christ in the end times. So our hearts and souls are judged now as we endure the Lord’s chastisement and are made better and wiser. And what we look for is not what can be seen with earthly eyes, but with spiritual eyes through deeper vision of a greater reward, even the invisible Glory of our Lord and God.

III. On the third head it is to be noted, that the future joys of the saints are said to consist of three things

a. In the consolation of the Divine Presence. Jesus says, I will see you again. Saint Augustine says, Lastly, there will be God Himself, Who will be all in all, Who will be to us salvation, honour, and glory, joy, and every good. I am ….. thy exceeding great reward. ( xv. 1)

Our reward is that we shall see Jesus again face to face. And more than this, we shall even see the Father whom He alone has revealed to us. Then we shall know our origin, source, and true beginning. Then we shall know even as we are known. (1 Cor. xiii. 12) Our reward shall be unbreakable union and communion with God the Holy Trinity in vision and knowledge of God, neighbor, and self.

b. In the highest exultation of heart, Your heart shall rejoice: They shall obtain joy and gladness. (Is. xxxv. 10)

The reward of vision shall be perfect delight, happiness, and joy. The heart’s deepest longings shall be fulfilled as man is loved perfectly and then reciprocates this love with equal perfection and good will. Man’s inborn desire for God shall then find it purest expression.

c. In the attaining of eternity: The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their head, which joy, no man can ever take from us.

Both the head and the heart, vision and desire shall be wed together in perfect bliss where joy in God and joy in man become one font and source of the unending exchange of perfect love. Man lives in God and God lives in man, forever, with a joy that words can never express.