Called to Joy You, yes, you!
By: Laura Field
Maybe it seems like an odd topic this year.
Or it could be that joy seems like an unachievable dream in our current, toxic time of terror, gun violence and nasty national elections. Perhaps you’ve never really considered that as Christians, we are called to joy. Or maybe you feel your heart pounding with a gentle, yet insistent “YES, I know this is true.”
Regardless of your initial response to our headline, this article is for you even if (maybe most especially if) you are grieving, suffering, anxious or skeptical. You, just as you are no matter your circumstances, are called to joy right now, today, August 21, 2016. And, we know this because Scripture urges us to “Rejoice always.”
Actually, Scripture mentions joy a lot – more than 220 times according to Biblegateway.com.
But it’s not just scripture. We also hear the call to joy from mystics and artists, poets and preachers and all who insist that the pursuit of true joy is not selfish or superficial, but essential, vital as one 18th century rabbi said. Or, as the more contemporary Jesuit theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin would say, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”
Evidence of our relationship with God
On one hand, we know that joy has a quality of freedom, delight, and wellbeing. When we experience joy, we are free from current problems, future worries or past regrets. We’re completely connected to the moment we are in, and it’s good. Joy leaves us with a profound sense of wellbeing.
We also know that joy has a quality of mercy. This year, Pope Francis reminded us that “Mercy is the wellspring of Joy.” On Tuesday, this past week we witnessed a moment of mercy in the Olympics. Did you see it or read about it? The moment when the American woman stooped to help a woman from New Zealand who had fallen? Did you see how they offered mercy to one another in that moment and again at the end of the race? And did you hear that as a result of their care and actions towards one another? The Olympic committee offered them both the chance to race again on Friday! Did you feel a sense of joy witnessing that act of mercy? If you did you’re in line with what the Pope was trying to tell us. Mercy leads to joy, to feelings of freedom, delight, wellbeing and awe.
This Olympic example demonstrates the reality that joy is contagious. The woman from New Zealand said, “She helped me first. I tried to help her.” At the end of the race, these two strangers, now friends, hugged. Mercy led to joy. The great Catholic social justice advocate Dorothy Day explains it this way, “to act joyfully brings joy to others, which in turn makes one feel joyful.” In other words, joy begets joy begets joy.
Personally, I’ve learned how to truly treasure and savor authentic moments of joy in my life through my experience of spiritual direction. Whether my joy is obvious or more subtle and tinged with sadness or regret, reflecting on my lived experience with a soul friend who is skilled in listening for the God moments in my life is, in and of itself, a joy.
And what about you? Are you anxious to tap and savor the joy of your life? Are you worried or grieving just hoping to feel joy one more time? Or are you discerning your vocation, the best path for your life? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions, perhaps spiritual companionship is calling you to joy too.
Laura Field is a lay spiritual director and retreat leader at Old St. Pat’s. For more information or to schedule a session, please contact Tammy Roeder at firstname.lastname@example.org.