Joy and Winnie the Pooh’s Hunny Jar

Sing praise to the Lord, you faithful;
give thanks to his holy memory.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
his favor a lifetime.
At dusk weeping comes for the night;
but at dawn there is rejoicing.

Psalm 30, New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

 

In The Church of Mercy, Pope Francis mentions JOY multiple times.  In his Homily at the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception of Aparecida, 24 July 2013, Pope Francis states, “Christians are joyful; they are never gloomy.  God is at our side…Christians cannot be pessimists…if we are truly in love with Christ and if we sense how much he loves us, our hearts will ‘light up’ with a joy that spreads to everyone around us.” 

And in Homily on Palm Sunday, 24 March 2013, “Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person:  Jesus, in our midst.  This joy is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable—and there are many of them!”

So, how do we go about staying joyful when, at times, we are overwhelmed with the reality of a world that is filled with despair and brokenness?  If you happen to be pragmatic, like this blog writer, you may ask yourself, “How can I, as a Christian, be a source of joy when sometimes I’m just not feeling full of joy myself?”  Upon reflection, I think the answer lies in the example of a beloved character from our childhood:  Winnie the Pooh.  Whenever Pooh Bear’s “hunny jar” was empty, the silly old bear had to go out and find more honey, often by asking his loyal friends for assistance. This usually led to adventures and mishaps and all kinds of encounters, none which would have happened if Pooh had refused to venture out of the security of the hollow tree he called home.

Winnie-the-poohOnce we understand JOY as a resource that continually needs to be replenished, as a lifeline of sorts, we can begin to seek the joy of Christ in quiet prayer, through Scripture, in gathering with our parish family at Mass, and through serving others.  More than one mentor in ministry through the years has reminded me that “you can’t give what you don’t have,” so this JOY/GOD connection is critical.  One benefit that comes from carving out time to spend with the LORD can be occasional moments of awe and wonder, grace-filled moments when we begin to recognize God’s love alive in us and in our neighbors.  It has been my experience that at the times in life when I truly make the time for God, really acknowledge God’s presence, I become a more grateful person and joy is a happy by-product of that gratitude.  My “hunny jar” at those times rarely runs low.  On the flip side, when “busyness” becomes an idol, I drift away from feeling close to God and end up running on empty.  I prefer the former and believe I’m more lovable when I’m seeking the joy of Christ!

I’m curious to know, if you are reading The Church of Mercy, what do you think of the book so far?  How is reading this book playing a role in your Lenten journey?  If you shared a copy of The Church of Mercy with anyone else, what has been your experience with that person?  Did he or she tell you their thoughts on the book so far?  I’d love to hear from you…comments welcome! 

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To Tell the Truth Television Game Show and Sacristy Christians

Garry Moore hosted a popular television show between 1969 and 1977 called To Tell the Truth.  Folks may remember there was a panel of celebrity judges who took turns questioning three contestants, two of whom were imposters and one the “real” person.  Nearing the end of each thirty minute episode, Garry Moore would exclaim, “Will the real (person’s name) please stand up?”  There would be a little bit of shuffling and finally the authentic person, the “real” so and so would stand.  Money was awarded for the best bluffing or stumping the judges, if I remember correctly.

old tv

Pope Francis does not mince words in Sent to Bring the Gospel to All the World, General Audience, 16 October 2013 when he poses the following question:  “Are we missionaries by our words, and especially by our Christian life, by our witness?  Or are we Christians closed in our hearts and in our churches—sacristy Christians?  Are we Christians in name only, who live like pagans?  We must ask ourselves these questions, which are not a rebuke.  I ask myself as well:  What kind of Christian am I?  Is my witness true?”

While the goal of To Tell the Truth was indeed to fool judges Kitty Carlisle, Peggy Cass, Bill Cullen and sometime-judge Tom Poston, we are warned by Pope Francis that our primary duty as members of the Church is to pray and proclaim the Gospel “by our life and by our words.” It’s a good reminder to us that it’s never simply enough to talk the talk.  We need to be certain that our actions do indeed speak louder than our words.

“Do-overs” and Experiencing the Light of Faith

 

cropped-ball-on-grass

If you were a young person growing up in the 1970’s or earlier decades, playing outside with the neighborhood kids and our own siblings was a daily occurrence.  Kickball games, Ghosts in the Graveyard, Pickle and Freeze Tag were part of our repertoire and there were unwritten rules of play that somehow were understood by all.  Most debates over unfairness were settled with a little thing called the “do-over.”  A “do-over” could be another pitch because “I wasn’t ready,” or having the person who was “IT” count slower or to a higher number before “seeking” the “hiders.”  Perhaps the “do-over” rule was an introductory lesson in mercy, an opportunity for second chances, some probably well-deserved and some pure gift.

I may be going out on a limb here, but is it possible to look at this Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis as a “do-over” of sorts?  In The Light of Faith, Pope Francis writes:  “Clearly, then, faith is not intransigent but grows in respectful coexistence with others.  One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility because believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth that embraces us on a journey; it enables witness and dialogue with all.”

Am I finding Christ in all I encounter or am I simply seeing how others are more or less Catholic/Christian than me?  The risk in the latter scenario, Francis states in Address to Participants at the International Congress on Catechesis is as follows:  “…when a room is closed, it begins to get dank.  If a person is closed up in that room, he or she becomes ill!  Whenever Christians are enclosed in their groups, parishes and movements, they take ill.  If a Christian goes to the streets, or to the outskirts, he or she may risk the same thing that can happen to anyone out there:  an accident.  How often have we seen accidents on the road!  But I am telling you:  I would prefer a thousand times over a bruised Church to an ill Church!  A Church, a catechist, with the courage to risk going out, and not a catechist who is studious, who knows everything but is always closed—such a person is not well.  And sometimes he or she is not well in the head…”

So, are we not called to be a healthy Church?  A church of dialogue?  A church of patience?  A church of second chances?  My friends, change can be excruciatingly slow but we must begin by transforming our own hearts.  We only have to look to Jesus in the Scriptures to be reminded of what mercy truly looks like.  This Lent, let’s demand a “do-over.”