5 Sing praise to the Lord, you faithful;
give thanks to his holy memory.
6 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.
Once 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!