Sunday, October 26, 2014

Joy from the Holy Spirit

"with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers"

Acknowledging the joy referenced in today's second reading reveals the total picture of humanity. We are not half-empty, but half-full. While it is true that we are flawed and fractured and thus may never be able to remain filled and satisfied for very long, we can nevertheless return again and again and again to the well of God's love and joy and draw from it all that we need to refill our strength of will and soundness of heart.

Rejoicing in the Lord and proclaiming the glass half-full and the bucket fillable takes more than a sappy sense of well-being - it takes gutsy joy. Gutsy joy enables us to see the steady stream of God's love and fidelity flowing into our lives when we feel as though we are in the midst of a spiritual drought. Gutsy joy keeps us striving after obedience even when we realize we will always fall short of God's intentions for us.
One of the greatest examples of gutsy joy is Robert Louis Stevenson, someone who was devastatingly ill from childhood on and was in pain almost every day of his adult life.

One morning toward the end of his life, when he was hemorrhaging so badly he could not even whisper, Stevenson wrote his wife and daughter a little note which read: "Mr. Dumbleigh presents his compliments and praises God that he is sick so he has to be cared for ... Was ever a man so blest?"

In the closing days of his life, Stevenson wrote this prayer that has become somewhat of a classic: 

"We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day; for the hope with which we expect the morrow; for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies that make our lives delightful.... Give us courage, gaiety, and the quiet mind." 

Experiencing joy, feeling the laughter of loved life well up in our spirits and burst out of our mouths is a divine gift. C. S. Lewis believed that the ability to laugh at ourselves is as close as we get to true repentance in life. Tears over our brokenness close us down, as we dwell on the empty portions of our lives. Laughter opens us up, allowing us to lift our faces to the Lord from the surface of our half-filled selves, acknowledging our incompleteness and awaiting the pouring out of God's spirit