Unembarrassed Joy

Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

41SHFgwWc0L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_I was feeling like a real go-getter this week.  Days before writing this reflection I had read the passages and knew I was going to write on the section where James talks about going after those who stray.  Then I randomly picked up a book that I bought exactly one year before I got married, mind you I’ve been married for nearly three years now.  The book is called Salt of the Earth and it is an interview between Peter Seewald and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.  As I read one of Ratzinger’s responses I found a line from today’s first reading ringing through my mind, “Is anyone in good spirits?  He should sing a song of praise.”  That is such good advice!  But are we bad at following it?

Here is the line that released that train of thought from the station:

Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rare.  Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak.  When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer.  I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice. (36)

I want to spend our time reflecting on the two keys that James and Jesus give us for unlocking unembarrassed joy.

The first key is from James and is one of action.  It is worth noting that James does not possess the same dilemma that Ratzinger suggests we do.  For immediately before addressing the one in good spirits James wrote, “Is anyone among you suffering?  He should pray.”  James is not ignorant to suffering in the world.  As a matter of fact, if you read all of James, there is a strong call for us to do something about the suffering of the world!  We find lines such as

  • “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (1:27)
  • “However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (2:8-9)
  • “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?  So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:15-17)
  • “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity” (3:16-17)

This cornucopia of citations from James is to express that there seems to be a presumption that the person expressing unembarrassed joy, is already cooperating with God in trying to do something about these present trials and sufferings.  When we strive to follow James’ call to bear sorrow and suffering together, we do not hesitate to share our joy.  Instead, it is when we isolate the alleviation of suffering to the afflicted that we become ashamed of joy.

The second key is from Jesus in the gospel and is one of attitude or being.  Today’s gospel possess the famous line, “whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”  When we become childlike we can be joyful without shame.  I recall the great joy my nephew had as he shot baskets.  To the pragmatic adult, he was just throwing the ball up and his dad and I were actually sinking the ball through the hoop.  For the child, though, he was doing it and there was only joy in making the baskets.  And that joy was contagious.  It was inviting.

51DoPBMXXOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_That is the kind of joy that Pope Francis called us to in The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium).  Not something with a shrill, uneasy laugh trying to cover up the reality of suffering.  But a joy like a child’s.  A joy that penetrates hardship and overcomes suffering as it lifts someone’s spirit to the kingdom.

When Ratzinger, in 1996, noted a rarity in unembarrassed joy, I believe he was referring to a rarity in active childlike joy.  It is to this same impoverishment that Pope Francis responded with The Joy of the Gospel.

May the Gospel compel us to action and fill us with a contagious joy.


Both photos from www.amazon.com
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QotD – Mama Ecclesia – 05.20.2016

Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: “We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation.” Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith. …  As a mother who teaches her children to speak and so to understand and communicate, the Church our Mother teaches us the language of faith in order to introduce us to the understanding and the life of faith. (CCC 169-171)

This is the Church: a mother who has at heart the good of her children.  And since we are the Church, we are called to live this same spiritual, maternal attitude towards our brothers and sisters, by welcoming, forgiving and inspiring trust and hope. (Pope Francis, March 9, 2014)

QotD – To Till and Keep – 05.18.2016

We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev25:23).

(Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si), 67)

QotD – Nothing more solid – 2.4.2016

On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation [kerygma] must ring out over and over: “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” This first proclamation is called “first” not because it exists at the beginning and can then be forgotten or replaced by other more important things. It is first … because it is the principal proclamation, the one which we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis [teaching], at every level and moment.

We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. (Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. 164-165)

Revolution of Grace

Remember, remember the 5th of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,
I can think of no reason, the gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot.

I don’t give weight to the revolutionary that sneaks under the places of authority, but is raised above them.
Nor do I follow a revolutionary that calculates the right time to destroy, instead I follow one who sought the right time to fulfill and restore.
I reject the revolutionary that factors how many to kill, but follow the revolutionary that held back his whole host.
I turn from the revolutionary that views death as an instrument, and pursue the revolutionary that sees death as the enemy.

In remembering the Gunpowder Treason, I don’t see merely Guy Fawkes, but our human revolutions and they stand in stark contrast with the revolution of the Incarnation, Divine Love become Flesh; a revolution not merely from the bottom up, but from the top down to the bottom and back up again.  This was a revolution that didn’t result in victory through death, but victory over death!

There have been so many revolutions in history, many indeed.  Yet none of them has had the force of this revolution that brought Jesus to us: a revolution to transform history, a revolution that changes the human heart in depth.  The revolutions of history have changed political and economic systems, but none has changed the human heart.  True revolution, the revolution that radically transforms life, was brought about by Jesus Christ through his resurrection.  Benedict XVI said of this revolution that “it is the greatest mutation in the history of humanity.” … In this day and age, unless Christians are revolutionaries, they are not Christians.  They must be revolutionaries through grace! (Papa Frank, Address to the Participants in the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome, 17 June 2013).

The Danger of Pharisees

Reflection on the readings for October 31, 2015.

Today’s opening words in the Gospel resonate with a cultural, societal, and human truth.  Here is the text, “Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully.”  Those words, “the people there were observing him carefully,” makes me think that they wanted to know how Jesus was going to handle this Pharisee.  Was he going to put him in his place? Or pat him on the back?  Continue reading “The Danger of Pharisees”

New Year’s Resolutions for you, from Papa Frank!

pope-francis-vatic_3145804bSeveral media outlets are reporting on Pope Francis’ address to the Curia by using headlines such as: “Pope Francis sharply criticises Vatican bureaucracy” (BBC), “Pope gives Vatican leadership a withering critique” (Boston Globe), “Pope says Vatican administration is sick with power and greed” (Reuters), and, finally, “Pope Francis Denounces the Vatican Elite’s ‘Spiritual Alzheimer’s'” (Daily Beast).  Now, all of these headlines reflect some truth, but they all also seem to miss an essential point.

These articles and headlines reflect a kind of us versus them mentality.  The “us” is made up of all of us + Pope Francis, because the media seems to like him so he isn’t part of the Vatican or the bureaucracy.  The “them” is comprised of the rest of the cardinals and bishops that the media seems less fond of.  But I believe that mentality runs completely counter to Pope Francis’s. Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions for you, from Papa Frank!”

Remind Me of My Forgetfulness, O Lord!

Thank the Lord for my wife, Bess.

Really, I didn’t do anything wrong, I’m honestly starting this way because I am truly grateful for her. Bess is, as I told Immaculate Conception’s Youth Ministry, my prophetess. She doesn’t predict the future, but she does challenge me as prophets in the Biblical sense are supposed to do. To put it in the words of my father, “She seems really good, she calls him on his crap.” Continue reading “Remind Me of My Forgetfulness, O Lord!”