Monday, March 16, 2015

Reflection for Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent
IS 65: 17-21
PS 30: 2 AND 4, 5-6, 11-12A, 13B
JN 4: 43-54

Choose Joy.  
Joy is often not the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Lent, but joy is ultimately what God is calling us to in our journey to the Cross and Resurrection.  The reading today from Isaiah encourages us to choose joy.
In the passage from Isaiah the word joy or rejoicing is used on three separate occasions.  
there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
Like much of Isaiah, this passage speaks to ancient truths and wisdom and of God’s promise for the future.  Joy is evident in the luminous language of abundant life.  It’s important to recognize what is really meant by joy.  Joy is not happiness. Happiness is often contingent on external factors.  My own happiness is affected by how much sleep I had last night, the weather, if I’ve had my morning (or afternoon) cup of coffee, traffic, etc.  Happiness changes day to day, sometimes even throughout the day.  Joy is more enduring and internal rather than external. Joy goes much deeper. Joy is at the core of who we are and central to our identity.   Essentially joy is our way of being.  Sometimes what makes us joyful doesn’t always make us happy, in fact it may even feel unsettling.  As theologian Fr. Michael Himes says; “It’s what constantly moves us forward, makes us grow, expands our horizons, and deepens our perceptions… It’s an impulsion, a pressure to move forward, to do more, to expend oneself more deeply, more richly, to open one’s talents even more widely than one had before.”
When I think of a significant source of joy in my life I think of my partner, Brandon.  We have been married for almost 7 years.  Overall these have been joyful years.  Together we’ve known delight and difficulty; but what sustains us is joy.  Marriage calls me to be a better person, to move forward and grow.  That doesn’t always make me happy, though.  I’m often quite stubborn, weary, or complacent.  I don’t always enjoy being challenged but taking in the long view Brandon and I almost always benefit from the ways we compassionately encourage each other to deepen our perceptions of ourselves and our relationship.  In this relationship (and any meaningful relationship) joy is a choice.  It is innate to who I am, yet requires continual attention.
This sense of joy is what God made us for; “I create Jerusalem to be a joy”.  Joy is God’s invitation to unfold into our most authentic selves.  Joy is a daily choice, one that is often difficult to choose.  Weariness and complacency can creep in.  Lent is the time to explore and (re)discover that joy.
How do you experience joy in its deepest sense?  What ways can you continue to choose joy?

(Henri Nouwen, Here & Now, image source

Cynthia Enghauser is Campus Minister at the School of Nursing.

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