Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Joy in falling in love with words
The new life in Christ and gift of His Spirit gives us hope over the long haul
May 28, Sixth Sunday of Easter
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What is the quality of your joy?
2. How do you bring joy to others?
3. How does joy differ from glory - or, are they two sides of the same coin?
Have you ever fallen in love with a word? Like circumference, or synergy, or sauerkraut? Or maybe the word "joy"?
Molly Peacock, author of How to Read a Poem . . .and Start a Poetry Circle, has taken the tumble: "When I first fell in love with the word "joy," because it had a circle inside it, I did not know I was entering a whole way of life" (New York: Riverhead Books, 1999, p. 1).
Easter is the season of jOy! In the liturgy today this word joy, loved by the Church, keeps popping up: "Speak out with a voice of joy. . ." (Entrance Antiphon); "Ever-living God, help us to celebrate our joy in the resurrection of the Lord . . . (Opening Prayer); "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete" (Gospel - John 15). The O in joy, the fifteenth letter of the alphabet, has an attractive quality about it.
Disciples fall in love, not with some piece of vocabulary, but with the Word, Jesus. That fall is in response to a God who first loved us through the mysteries of creation, redemption, sanctification. It is a triple love and, therefore, a triple joy, one that energizes and leads to supreme activity.
Peter fell in love with the Word. When this vicar of Christ entered the house of Cornelius and experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the source of joy, we can sense his enthusiasm. All must be baptized into this new life and come to know the grace of joy. St. Peter knew from inside this line from a novel: "One cannot come into possession of joy and keep secrets." The secret was that in God there is no partiality; divine love is universal.
There is another word with a big O in it: love! It was a favorite word in the first epistle of Saint John. Love, of course, is the cause of joy (and peace and so much more). The apostle reminds us that God began the whole mystery by first loving us and demonstrating that love in the gift of Jesus. Our task is to receive that loving gift, then give it away by loving one another. Unless this is done we will fall, not in love, but out of love and become a "wineless" people characterized by "closing down, stiffening, creating suspicion, sadness, irritability, touchiness, argumentativeness, bad temper, pessimism, corrosive criticism, sourness." (list offered by Cardinal Martini of Milan)
The volume of suffering and anguish within our world challenges Joy, indeed, within our hearts and family systems. So easily discouragement and heaviness of heart can set in and overwhelming our fragile faith. We need the Easter mystery, this new life in Christ and the gift of his Spirit, to sustain us and give us hOpe over the long haul.
Here is a prayer by Thomas a Kempis, a prayer that our joy may not remain introductory but become full: "O everlasting Light, far surpassing all created things, send down the beams of your brightness from above, and purify, gladden, and illuminate in me all the inward corners of my heart. Quicken my spirit with all its powers, that it may cleave fast and be joined to You in joyful gladness of spiritual rapture. Oh, when will that blessed hour come when You will visit me and gladden me with Your blessed presence, so that You are to me all in all. As long as that gift is not given, there will be in me no full joy."
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)