“Defiant Joy: Shaped by Grief, Buoyed by Faith”

(Article title in Christianity Today, December 2022.)

Next Sunday is Easter.  I cannot describe Easter as an event.  To me Easter is God’s love manifested in the triumph of Jesus, God’s Son.  Since it is Love, Easter is a spirit.  After the stone is rolled away, it’s a merging of the universe with the welcoming warmth, exceptional beauty, infectious harmony of heaven.  It is felt, not seen.  Easter is also a triumph.  Jesus’s triumph, our joy!

One of my recent ‘heroes’ is Bono, the Irish rock star and co-founder of U2, the world-famous band that has provided witness for many causes like world hunger and the call to peace after the devastation of 9/11, and some of the wars in Africa and Central America.  Bono is no stranger to personal loss.  As a teen-ager he watched his mother fall into the burial grave during the funeral of her father and suffer a fatal heart attack, her grief too commanding to handle.  A chasm grew between Bono (Paul at that time) and his father.  Bono grew up in Dublin and became close to his friends who wanted to start a rock legacy.  The rest of this history rolls out a story like water skimming on oil, one event after another leading to eventual fame—and in Bono’s case, fame of music mixed with activism.  Bono coined the term “defiant joy” used for the title of the interview he did for Christianity Today.  It’s a joy that describes a triumphal grace that follows a terrible event; it is a kind of solidarity with those who go through the event to show “where God is speaking,” to give witness that we are not alone; God is there.  Bono coined the term for the end of his memorialization of the American tragedy of 9/11.  

Defiant joy sounds a lot like Easter to me.  Bono became a committed Christian and led his band to work themselves into the “in-between space” where audiences stand on what the Irish call the liminal place, the threshold with secular culture on one side and the call of grace on the other.  According to Mike Cosper, the writer of the article, Bono’s defiant joy “is a description that suits not only the night of the performance which memorialized 9/11, but all of his unique witness.”  He reads the Bible daily and prays the psalms.  Bono is defiantly joyful!!

I could not help but think of the followers of Jesus who suffered through the anxiety and pain of Holy Week.  From Good Friday through Holy Saturday, they were probably thinking, what has this commitment brought us to?  Pain, treason, more division, threats?  Where do we go from here?  Then, suddenly there is Easter!   

Easter is a triumph of joy.  The small group of believers become aware that Jesus defied death; he did the impossible. They are now trembling with joy and awe.  Hans Kung has written, “The Easter message in all its different variations means simply one thing: Jesus did not die into nothingness…he died into and was taken up by that incomprehensible and comprehensive ultimate reality which we designate by the name of God.” (p. 358) Jesus was raised by God—as we all will be—into a “totally new relationship with God.”  Soon the followers of Christ will realize this and many will become defiant in their writings, their ministries, their preaching, all using this Easter message to encourage new believers because, as Kung says, “Resurrection means dying into God.” (p. 359) Jesus had defied the rigid interpretation of law, the exclusive non-acceptance of everyone, the challenge to face God over tyrants.  The defiance, however, of the disciples will not be an angry or puerile competition with opposing forces.  No, it will be joyful—the ground for martyrdom. 

Artists in all genres can reflect beautifully what theologians tell us in reasoned,

researched texts.  Bono has made efforts to create through faith and music a defiant joy that does as much to praise God as all the choirs of angels dancing and singing with heavenly abandon.  Franklin Graham once asked him, “Why aren’t your songs, Christian?”  “They are” replied Bono.  “Well,” said Graham, “why don’t we know they are?”  Bono’s reply was classic: “They (songs) are all coming from a place, Franklin.  Look around you.  Look at creation, look at the trees, look at the sky, look at these verdant hills.  They don’t have a sign up that says, ‘Praise the Lord’ or, ‘I belong to Jesus.’  They just give glory to Jesus.” 


Easter asks us to give glory to God in joyful music, joyful togetherness, joyful love.  This week you will be involved in whatever ways your particular religion is commemorating certain events.  Defiant joy should be the result of your reflection, your fasting, your contemplative prayer whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other religion.

Read your sacred texts in silence.  Let the silence be attended by music, candles.  Pray with your texts.  Be present to the message of God on certain days you choose to do these reflective readings.

What are ways we can give witness to defiant joy through our faith?  Be particular.  Make a list.

For Christians, Easter is the beginning of the next chapter, something Bono hints at in referencing T.S. Eliot’s quote from Four Quartets: The end is where we start.”

To all of you, my faithful readers, and Anonymous Angels, I wish you a profoundly joyful and meaningful Easter, Passover, and Ramadan.  And I hope you will all enjoy a defiant joy in proclaiming your faith!

All quotes from Bono were taken from “Christianity Today,” Dec. 2022. Pp.36-43.

8 thoughts on ““Defiant Joy: Shaped by Grief, Buoyed by Faith”

Add yours

  1. Thank you, Sister Maryann! Your reflections are always uplifting – joyful. Have a blessed Holy Week And a joy-filled Easer season.

    Sent from my iPad


    div dir=”ltr”>


    blockquote type=”cite”>


  2. Thank you for your reflection. I will remember Bono’s words “ Defiant Joy” & think of him & your article during this Holy Week.


  3. Isn’t it great that artists can provide inspirational thoughts just like saints and our scriptures do? Enjoy a Blessed, meaningful Easter!
    S. Mary Ann


  4. How terrific! I have to listen to Bono now – great phrase, ‘defiant joy’ – Good Friday I walk with Pax Christi Metro New York and Easter Sunday and all through the Easter Season, celebrate Defiant Joy! Thank you, take care, Margi


  5. Mary Ann, may you too have a defiantly joyful Easter! And thanks so much for sharing so much of your own spirituality.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Start a Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Lavish Mercy

God's Mercy is everywhere and infinite.

My Inner Light

Spiritual reflections through self-development, nature, meditation and dreams

Kimberly Novak, Author

Creating Gems of Inspiration - All for the Glory of God

CSJLife | All Things Vocations

with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis

%d bloggers like this: