In June, we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist who is patron saint of JOY! It’s often a battle to hold on to joy amidst the trials and crosses of life in our world today. True joy, however, is not a fleeting feeling or emotion, but a spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit that arises out of God’s grace and being mindful of and working against the things that rob us of that joy. Be on the lookout for the 7 thieves of joy, or the seven deadly sins. St. John the Baptist is a model of how to possess joy and not fall victim to those sins which can rob us of true spiritual joy.

The 7 Thieves of Sspiritual JOY and Their Counterexamples

Pride: Pride is a thief of joy because it can diminish joy by creating unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others. It often breeds comparison, competition and self-righteousness. St. John the Baptist recognized that his mission was not to exalt himself but that his purpose was to exalt and prepare the way for Christ. “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30-35) Looking for ways to build up others and work on humility helps to root out pride. The Litany of Humility is a wonderful weapon for combat.

Wrath: Wrath is a thief of joy because it consumes one with anger and resentment, choking out the fruit of joy. It often leads to impulsive actions and hurtful words which damage relationships. St. John the Baptist spoke of repentance and turning away from sin. Jesus’ message was one of love and forgiveness, not wrath. In fact, the definition of love is “to will the good of another”. We must root out wrath by replacing it with more love for God and others. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Lust: Lust is a thief of joy because it can turn meaningful relationships and people into mere objects of desire. It often leads to a cycle of fleeting satisfaction followed by emptiness. St. John the Baptist calls King Herod out on this by challenging Herod’s relationship with Herodias. “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” (Mark 6:17-18) Chastity, a spiritual fruit, roots out lust and helps us to see ourselves and others as gifts, not objects of desire.

Envy: Envy is a thief which erodes joy by constantly shifting focus to what others have, fostering a sense of inadequacy and discontent. This continual comparison breeds resentment and bitterness, overshadowing one's own achievements and blessings. When others wanted to proclaim St. John the Baptist as the Messiah, he always pointed back to Jesus. “After me, One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to bend down and untie the straps of His sandals.” (John 1:27) Gratitude and a recognition that we all have different gifts for HIS glory helps to root out envy.

Gluttony: Gluttony is a thief of joy because it replaces mindful enjoyment with excessive consumption, leading to physical discomfort and health issues. The pursuit of indulgence often results lack of control in other areas. St. John the Baptist was an example of not being consumed by the physical appetites of the world. He used prayer, fasting, and retreating to the desert to combat carnal desires. The virtue of temperance helps to root out gluttony. Fasting can also be a powerful tool in the work of teaching temperance.

Greed: Greed is a thief which steals joy by fostering an insatiable desire for more, making contentment and satisfaction perpetually out of reach. St. John the Baptist gives us an example of satisfaction with what is needed. While God perhaps is not calling us to live off wild locusts and honey, what is the “necessary” in our lives? We are all called to live a life of detachment. The spiritual fruit of generosity roots out greed because it recognizes our need to be stewards of God’s gifts, not merely consumers.

Sloth/Complacency: Sloth robs us of joy by promoting inactivity and procrastination, which can lead to missed opportunities to love and serve. Complacency becomes a stagnate way of life that halts holiness to a stalemate. St. John the Baptist gives us an example of a life well-lived. He physically leaps for joy in St. Elizabeth’s womb when Mary comes to visit her. (Luke 1:41-44) From the womb, he is joyful and ready to prepare the way for Christ. Throughout his life, and until his death, he proclaims and glorifies Christ and never compromises truth for security. An active life of love and service therefore roots out complacency.

Let us be sober and alert for these thieves which try to steal our spiritual joy and rob us from eternity!

Maria Stewart — SFA Theologians Guild Member