Living Joyfully

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You will have in you the strength, based on God’s own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully, thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.

Colossians 1: 11-12

For Sigmund Freud, true human maturity requires the ability to bear the harshness of reality. For him, of course, this means a capacity to live a life without the illusion of belief in God. There is, without question, a certain grave nobility in, as Albert Camus would phrase it, “resistance, rebellion, and death.” This is hardly, however, the “life to the full” promised by Jesus in John’s gospel.

Today’s familiar reading from the Letter to the Colossians speaks of not just bearing with the harshness of life, but “bearing anything joyfully.” The key to joy, it suggests, is living in appreciation and gratitude for the life we are given and, even more, for the loving relationship and relationships at the heart of our lives.

We have all had an experience, or hopefully even many experiences, in life of “being in love.” To love, with its constituent dimension of being loved, evokes in us a pervasive sense of joy and gratitude. We know, at that moment, that what we are experiencing is sheer gift, and, in the other’s delight in us we know beyond concepts the truth that our own life is a gift. One of the many gifts that Pope Francis has been to the Church and the world is his living reminder to us that believing (as the roots of the word suggest) is “being in love.” So real belief in God always manifests itself in an abiding joy through all of what life brings us.

In a dialogue with Eugenio Scalfari, the founder of La Repubblica, Pope Francis said:

I would not speak about, not even for those who believe, an “absolute” truth, in the sense that absolute is something detached, something lacking any relationship. Now, the truth is a relationship! This is so true that each of us sees the truth and expresses it, starting from oneself: from one’s history and culture, from the situation in which one lives, etc. This does not mean that the truth is variable and subjective. It means that it is given to us only as a way and a life. Was it not Jesus himself who said: “I am the way, the truth, the life”? In other words, the truth is one with love, it requires humbleness and the willingness to be sought, listened to and expressed. 

We touch the deepest truth of our existence only in relationship. When we enter into solitude, we do so for the sake of deepening relationship, not of avoiding it. The joy of the solitary is a joy in being in communion with the One “through, with, and in” we live out our life as given by and returning to God. Solitude, however, must be complemented by life with others, “the saints,” with whom we “inherit the light.” When we are seen by one who loves us, we re-experience the gaze of our mother (or other significant figure) whose love of us and delight in us awakened our hearts and spirits and whose love brought us and our gifts into the world. This was and is the great sacrament of love we can be for each other. In such a gaze we come to know the truth of who we are in God’s sight. In the depth of such relationship lies a joy that no one can take from us. (John 16: 22)

Gentle playfulness is lived in those rare moments when I feel at one with the Divine Presence, finely attuned to God’s inspiration, released from divisive concerns. I feel gracious, with the soft, flowing grace of a dancer, joyous with the lightheartedness of a child. Such moments grant me a glimpse of eternity, a rehearsal of the playful life to come. For a breathtaking moment, I see the Divine playfulness lighting up the world of daily appearances. No longer blinded by arrogant sophistication, make believe poses, empty words, I respond to grace with graciousness, blissfully at one with the Eternal Presence that fills the universe.

God was by no means obliged to create, redeem, and unfold this world. All these events evidence the playing of the eternal in time and space. In that divine play, people, events, and things are called to find their place and meaning in the outpouring of Divine Love that transfigures the cosmos.

Adrian van Kaam, Spirituality and the Gentle Life, p. 177

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One Comment

  1. Bro. Jerry O'Leary says:

    John… I love this statement and hope I can have this vision at least some of the time…”.For a breathtaking moment, I see the Divine playfulness lighting up the world of daily appearances. ”
    thanks so much,
    Jerry

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