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!!