Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Where do we find joy?

~from Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP's homily: Joy, joy, joy down in my heart
Jesus tells us to remain in his love and keep his commandments to love. Then he tells us that he is telling us this so that his joy might be in us and our joy might be complete. Complete Joy? How about we start with something small like plain ole joy? We have: delight, elation, bliss, and happiness. We know the word “joy” and we could rattle off a few examples if we needed to. So what does Jesus add to our Christian understanding of joy? At least three new elements: 1) Jesus says that he wants us to be infused with “my joy” not a generic joy of a worldly type but “his joy;” 2) to be infused with his joy completes “our joy,” meaning that our joy and his are different but compatiable; 3) joy is that sort of thing that can be experienced in degrees—joy has an perfect and imperfect form.

Jesus is leaving the disciples to join the Father. His joy is rapidly approaching completion. His joy is the delight, the bliss, the elation and happiness he feels as he returns to his Father and directly experiences again perfect being, Being Himself. As the only Son of God, the joy Jesus experiences is unique to him; joy’s fullness in Christ overflows, abounds and diffuses, adding to and flooding the joy we feel as we approach the perfection that awaits us in Christ.

Our joy here and now is incomplete because we still long for God. Aquinas teaches us: “…joy is full, when there remains nothing to be desired. But as long as we are in this world, the movement of desire does not cease in us, because it still remains possible for us to approach nearer to God by grace” (ST II-II.28.3). He compares desire and joy to movement and rest. Desire moves. Joy rests. We love imperfectly. We are at peace imperfectly. And our imperfections are pushed and pulled by Christ’s love, Christ’s peace, looking confidently forward toward his joy. Fortunately, in Christ, we are not slaves to desire—our incomplete longings—but his friends, his beloved, and we know that our joy will be complete in him. When we keep his command to love one another—knowing our hunger, knowing our emptiness—we love ourselves into his perfect joy. Complete happiness. Total elation.

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