Faces of Joy…

All saints

When I was about eight years old, my dad taught me how to play the guitar.  I remember being extremely excited!  He would carefully show me all the different chords, and how to move from one chord to the next.  I remember the guitar being very big for me (I really had to stretch my arms) and that my fingers would be very sore, but as I kept practicing it got easier.  At first, when I would strum, I would get all kinds of sounds that made us both laugh!! Learning to play guitar was one of my dreams… largely because I knew that it was something that my dad could teach me…and that he was happy to teach me.

When it comes to true Christian joy, that is something that Jesus shows us by the example of his very life.  Jesus teaches us what Christian joy is, just like my dad taught me how to play guitar.  It is the joy that is in Jesus’ glorified heart.

What do we mean by “Christian joy?”  Jesus prays about it in the Gospel when He prays to His Heavenly Father: “I have made your name known to them…so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them…” (Jn 17:24).  This type of joy comes when you know that you are completely loved by your Heavenly Father.  Jesus knows He is loved by His Father.  The love of the Father is so great for us that He wants all of us to be His sons and daughters.  Through our Baptism God’s love and grace is poured into our hearts so that we can be docile in receiving the love and joy that God has for us.  This grace and love grows in us as we receive the Eucharist with good dispositions.

According to St. John of the Cross there are two dimensions of the human personality: psychological and spiritual. In the psychological dimension which is in the lower part of the soul, we are able to experience in a profound way God’s love through everyday experiences and consolations that He grants us.  In the spiritual dimension of the soul which is the higher part of the soul, we are able experience a joy that no one can take from us, even in the midst of sickness, persecution, failure, and rejection.  A joy so real that we can honestly say we are living in the Holy Spirit.  Christian joy is compatible with human suffering and sorrow meaning that someone who possesses Christian joy is able to have joy even in the midst of affliction and struggle.  Just like when I would play guitar my fingers would get sore, I was still happy to play the guitar.  The Saints, the real faces of joy, as they carried their cross securely were the most joyful people, yet they were the most afflicted.  Love knows how to suffer and how to maintain peace in the Cross.  The saints were able to rejoice in the Cross of the Lord because of their strong interior life and love for the Lord!

Pick a Saint, any Saint, and read about their life…what were some of their challenges/difficulties and how did they respond to them?

How did that Saint pray in the midst of trial and difficulty?

Jesus, through His life, death and Resurrection, communicates to us His Father’s love.  Christian joy can turn into Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor; theirs is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are they that mourn…”  This true joy comes most explicitly when we realize that we are loved and wanted by God.  As we grow in Christian joy the fruits of the Holy Spirit begin to take real shape in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, faith, self-control and chastity.  Indeed, may these Fruits of the Holy Spirit bear Christ’s image in our souls!

In the upcoming blog posts, I think we are all finally ready to explore the various stages of the spiritual life namely a general overview of the purgative, illuminative, and unitive stages.  We will also be talking about various topics that have to do with Religious Life…answers to questions that you have always wanted to know!!!!

It is going to be exciting!!!!  Don’t miss it!!!!!

Poor Thomas…

 

Jesus and Thomas

I feel sorry for Thomas.  While the Apostles were rejoicing over their Risen Lord, poor Thomas, because he had not seen Jesus yet, was not rejoicing.  Thomas was doubting.  He said, “unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25).  What was Thomas looking for?  He wanted joy.  He wanted to see the presence of the Risen Lord.  Thomas wanted to have the joy that his brother Apostles had at seeing the Lord.  It was only after Thomas saw the Lord and touched the marks in His hands, feet and side that he exclaimed with joy, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

Joy exists on two levels namely the level of nature (human level) and the level of grace (Christian joy).  This week we are going to contemplate joy on the level of nature (human level) and next week we will contemplate on Christian joy.

Pope Paul VI once spoke about natural joys as “a starting point when [Jesus] proclaimed the kingdom of God.”  In calling this natural level of joy a “starting point,” he is indicating that the simple, natural pleasures of life are good, provided that we engage in them virtuously seeing them as gifts of God and not abusing them out of selfishness and greed.  We need to engage pleasures according to God’s design and not according to our own selfish desires.  It is possible for pleasures to become addictions if they are not mortified and engaged in virtuously.  Pope Paul VI says,

“Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty generating joy.  For joy has another source.  It is spiritual…Money, comfort, hygiene, and material security are often not lacking; and yet boredom, depression and sadness remain the lot of many….is it perhaps a matter of loneliness, and an unsatisfied thirst for love and someone’s presence, of an ill- defined emptiness?”

Have I ever felt empty?

Do I see that natural joys tell us something about the beauty and goodness of God?

Since we are composed of body, soul and spirit, the joys that we experience affect our body, soul and spirit.  There are three kinds of joy namely: physical joy (experience of the body), emotional delight (experience in the soul), and rational joy (experience of the spirit).  An example of physical joy would be eating your favourite meal consisting of spaghetti and ice cream…An example of emotional delight would be something that stirs up positive feelings and is exciting but passive such as: your graduation day, winning the lottery, receiving a bouquet of flowers from someone, going to a hockey game with your family.  Rational joy is an experience of mind and will.  Joy is always relational; it is the fruit of love between persons.  Rational joy is willing the good of the other. Someone who has this type of joy gives without counting the cost.  Examples of people who shared this type of joy are the saints like Saint Mother Teresa who gave all for the sake of the poor; the great Apostles like Sts. Peter and Paul who gave themselves completely in order to spread the Gospel to every nation.  But this type of joy is not meant for only a few, but is meant to be experienced by all.

We have joys that come to us every day.  We can be joyful about existence and the great gift of life that God has given us.  We can have the joy of chaste and sanctified love in marriage and family/community life.  We can have the peaceful joy of nature and silence and of being able to appreciate God’s creation.  We can have the joy of doing our work well.  We can have the joy of purity, service and sharing by conducting acts of charity and doing things for others.  We can also experience the joy of sacrifice which purifies our souls and attachments and makes us capable of greater love.

We need to be able to savor all joys…but joy on the human level can only bring us so far.

Is there a higher level of joy?…read the next blog and find out!!

Joy in Him…

Jesus and Mary

Have you ever had a moment where you were so overwhelmed with happiness?  Maybe it was when you went on that trip that you always wanted to go on.  Perhaps it was the day you received your university degree after many years of intense study.  Maybe it was the moment that you held your newborn baby for the first time.  Perhaps it was the day you got married to your high school sweetheart.  If you are a priest, I am sure it was the day you were ordained and celebrated your first Mass.  If you are a Consecrated Religious, perhaps it was the day of your entrance, and final profession day.  We all have moments where we experience great heights of happiness and joy.  If we were to have asked St. Mary Magdalene what her moment of overwhelming happiness was… I am sure she would say it was the moment at the tomb when Jesus said “Mary!”

When we read the Resurrection account, we hear that Mary did not recognize Jesus at first.  Overcome with grief that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, Mary could not recognize the Lord.  But when he said her name “Mary” (John 20:16) she was overwhelmed with great joy and did only what any woman would do…she wanted to embrace Him.  Hearing her name proclaimed by Jesus, was enough to fill every part of her with exceedingly great joy.

Do we hear the Lord calling our name? 

Do we hear God call us His sons and daughters?

Is Jesus our joy?  Do we find our joy in the risen Christ?

St. John of the Cross in his many works speaks about the joy that comes from being in union with God.  Christian joy is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  When someone has joy, they are consciously aware of possessing good which is the fundamental desire of the heart.  Blessed Pier Giorgio once said, “You ask me whether I am in good spirits.  How could I not be so?  As long as faith gives me strength I will always be joyful.”

There are two elements of joy: possessing a good and a conscious awareness.  To love or desire the good is not enough.  We need to foster the virtue of thanksgiving to God.  Many times we do not realize how much we have been given.  We are downcast at times because we are pursuing things that are lower than God.  But God has given us so much!  He has given us His very self especially evident when we meditate on His Passion and He gives Himself to us in the sacraments especially the Eucharist.

Conscious awareness of joy is necessary!  St. Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Mary Magdalene and the Apostles are not joyful until they know that Jesus is risen from the dead!  Joy comes once they know that Jesus is risen from the dead.  We need to foster an awareness of all the gifts God has given us with a spirit of gratitude.

Finally, joy is a choice…like love.  Joy is certainly the fruit of love.  For this reason, we can be joyful even in the midst of the cross.  St. John of the Cross says, “if you knew how pleasing to God is suffering and how much it helps in acquiring other good things, you would never seek consolation in anything; but you would rather look upon it as a great happiness to bear the Cross of the Lord.”  Spiritual joy comes when we are aware through Faith of God’s gifts even in the midst of the Cross.

Joy is so fundamental in the spiritual life!  We are called to be a people of joy!  Living the Gospel is a life of joy!  Let us go forth and proclaim that Jesus is Risen!

Wounded for Our Transgressions…

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The Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate wish all of you a very Blessed Holy Week and a Happy and Holy Easter!!!

Below is a series of passages from Scripture composing a “Biblical Narrative” of the Passion of Jesus based on the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John.  Read one verse after the other…bring it to prayer… allow the Lord to speak to you…

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” (John 1:1)

“For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 4:16)

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5)

“…when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself…the light is with you a little longer…walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you…believe in the light that you may become sons of light…” (John 12: 32, 35-36)

“He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.” (John 1:10)

“Through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear…” (Isaiah 53: 11b-12)

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again; this charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

“He came to his own home, and his own people received him not…” (John 1:11)

“Behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of many is betrayed into the hands of sinners…” (Matthew 26:45)

“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and with his stripes we are healed…” (Isaiah 53: 5)

“My, God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

“It is finished…” (John 19:30)

“But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)

“Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous…” (Romans 5:18-19)

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” (John 10: 10-11)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father…” (John 1:14)

“Peace be with you…”he showed them his hands and his side…” (John 20:21).

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him…” (1 John 4:10).