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"Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart." – Luke 2:19 (RSV)

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joy

Designed for Love

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If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat… but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.

– Thomas Merton

I love this quote by Thomas Merton because it gets to the heart of what questions you need to ask if you really want to get to know someone.

Essentially, there are two questions that could be asked; 1. What are you living for? 2. What is keeping you from living fully for the thing you want to live for?

I think these questions are also helpful to get to know myself; to grow in self-knowledge and self-awareness. Also, asking these questions regularly would be a good check up on my soul.

  1. What am I living for? To be united with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; to be united with God who is Love itself.
  2. What is keeping me from living fully for the thing you want to live for? Myself, my concupiscence, my self-love.

As a Catholic, I believe that I am designed by God for Love; to fall in love with the One who is Love itself, to strive to be united with Love (by relying on God’s superabundant grace) and to eventually be in perfect communion with the Most Holy Trinity. These major landmarks are like courtship and engagement (on Earth and in Purgatory), and marriage (in Heaven) where I am the bride and the Lord is my bridegroom.

I would say that Catholic evangelization… ought to be based upon the Eucharist in which case it’s really about falling in love in stages. It’s sort of like courtship, engagement and marriage.

Dr. Scott Hahn

Removing my sandals before the sacred ground of the other

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Christians, as missionary disciples, must practice the ‘art of accompaniment’ which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.

– Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 169

What I have recently found over the past couple of weeks is a growing reverence and love for the Real Prescence of our Lord in the Mass. Flowing from this development is a growing sense of reverence for other people for the sake of my Lord. What I mean is that because the Lord loves every single soul, I also am learning to love them. I love who and what my Lord loves, I want what He wants.

As I notice the Lord working in my soul, I also grow in understanding that any soul that God works in is ‘sacred ground’. Only the Lord knows which souls He is working in. From what I understand about my Lord, He will want to work tenderly and passionately in any soul that allows Him to. So, to me, every person’s soul is ‘sacred ground’.

If I acknowledge every soul as sacred ground, that is where God works, then the natural response is to remove my ‘sandals’ when I am communing with them. I suppose what this means to me is to put my pride aside; to acknowledge that without God, I am nothing and I can do nothing good, and that all my merits are because of God’s grace and tender mercy. When I do this, I become free to love the other as my brother/sister, as someone searching for the same thing as I am, Love itself. I recognise that the other is also, like me, restless until our heart rests in God (St. Augustine). And so, I feel a tender compassion for the other as someone who is in the same boat as me. Most of all, I feel a great joy because I know that the person and me are both loved passionately, tenderly and infinitely by God who is Love itself.

Happiness, Aristotle & Catholicism

Obviously, the “positive” emotions are more enjoyable and easier to life with, but it’s perfectly normal to be occasionally engulfed by waves of grief or sadness, and stymied by feelings of despair, doubt or disappointment. All those emotions have something to teach us about ourselves and, without them, we’d never know what happiness is.

But it all depends on what we mean by “happiness”, so let’s start at the beginning. The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that the ideal life was the life of eudaimonia – a word usually translated as “happiness”. But Aristotle was not talking about a life of sensory pleasure; nor was he endorsing a life detached from reality by the delusion that things are (or should be) better than they actually are.

His idea of happiness comes much closer to our word “wholeness” than it does to the often self-indulgent, pleasure-based feeling we call “happiness”. For Aristotle, eudaimonia was about living in accordance with reason; fulfilling our sense of purpose; doing our civic duty; living virtuously; being fully engaged with the world and, especially, experiencing the richness of human love and friendship.

– Hugh Mackay, ‘Why we sometimes need to be sad’

I came across this in my reading today and found it a fantastic explanation of what Christian joy is.

For a long time I had been struggling to articulate what “Christian joy” means. I hear the term used all the time but didn’t really know how to speak about how Christian joy compared with the “joy/happiness” that people can experience without Christ. So I went and googled it in search for some way to articulate the difference. I didn’t manage to find an answer so I decided to leave it up to the Lord to reveal it to me if it is His will.

When I read this article, I realised that Aristotle’s explanation of “happiness” could be used to describe “Christian joy”

So here’s how I would articulate what “Christian joy” means to me:

Firstly, let’s talk about what Christian joy is not…

Christian joy is not a life of sensory pleasure, nor a life detached from reality by the delusion that things are (or should be) better than they actually are. 

Christian joy is not the self-indulgent, pleasure-based feeling society nowadays call “happiness”. 

Now, let’s talk about what Christian joy is…

Christian joy is living in accordance with reason. To me, living the life Christ calls us to live as Christians is very logical exercise. It’s a series of if this is true/not true… then naturally/logically I would respond in this way… For example, if Jesus is who He says He is, if He is indeed God, then it is only logical that I need to center my life around Him. On the other hand, if Jesus is not who He says He is, if He is not God, then He’s not a nice man, He’s a dangerous fanatic, and therefore I would do well to avoid centering my life around Him.

Christian joy is living in a way that fulfills our sense of purpose. As Catholics, we believe that our hearts are designed for union with God. This is the purpose of our existence that is inscribed into us; to love God and to be loved by God. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for Yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” And so, when we live in a way that we were designed to live, we experience a pervading joy and peace that the world cannot give. St. Catherine of Siena said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” In other words, to be fully alive is to be who we are meant to be.

Christian joy is living virtuously. The Catholic Church teaches us that there are 7 deadly sins and the antidote to these are the 7 lively virtues. The 7 deadly sins are exactly what they are, they are deadly; they prevent us from being fully alive and thereby prevent us from participating in the fullness of Christian joy. The 7 lively virtues on the other hand are antidotes to the 7 deadly sins; they set us free to experience a deep joy and peace beyond our wildest dreams.

Christian joy is being fully engaged with the world. As Catholics, we believe that to be fully engaged with the world, we have to understand objective truth. Only when you understand something can you engage it as it is. Objective truth is a big topic and of course the Church’s teaching on what the truth of things is very extensive. What helps me to understand the world is the fact that our hearts are designed to love God and to be loved by Him. Therefore, everything we do is ordered to satisfy this desire whether we recognise it or not. If we repress the desire for God, it doesn’t go away, rather, it comes up in a distorted way. If we don’t turn to God to satisfy this desire that is hardwired into us, we try to substitute God with wealth, pleasure, honor and/or power. C.S. Lewis in his work ‘Mere Christianity’ said, “Human history… is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Christian joy is experiencing the richness of love and friendship with God. Ultimately, Christian joy comes down to one thing, being who we are made to be; in communion with the Holy Trinity. We are designed by God from the beginning to participate in the Divine love and friendship of the Holy Trinity. When we are able to do this fully, we experience the fullness of Christian joy; this happens in Heaven. However, the good news is, we can still experience an extent of Christian joy right here and right now on earth to the extent by which we participate in the love of God (that is to the extent by which we allow God to love us and love God in return).

So in a nutshell, Christian joy is living in accordance with reason, in a way that fulfills our sense of purpose, living virtuously, being fully engaged with the world and experiencing the richness of love and friendship with God. 

Deep joy

I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near.

There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. 

– Philippians 4:4-7

I had been discussing joy/happiness with my friend today, trying to explain to her the difference between joy and deep joy. I didn’t really know how to explain to it her because I didn’t really understand the difference myself.

Today, during Mass, my Lord Jesus helped me understand a little of the difference between joy and deep joy. The second reading was from Philippians 4:4-7 and set the scene in my mind for the priest’s homily.

The priest shared with us how a late Capuchin friar explained the difference between joy and deep joy. Joy was akin to a shallow creek and deep joy like a deep river. The creek shallow and thereby rushes by and makes lots of noise because it keeps smashing against the rocks. The river is deep and therefore still and quiet. Because the creek is shallow, it is easily disrupted or cut off by things falling in its way. On the other hand, the deep river’s stillness and peace is not much disturbed by objects falling into it.

This explanation reminded me a lot of a quote by Mother Theresa.

In the silence of the heart God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.

– Mother Teresa

Joy

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Only when lovers give up all control and melt helplessly into each other’s bodies and spirits, only when they overcome the fear that demands control, do they find the deepest joy.

– Peter Kreeft, Ph.D.

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