I cannot take credit for that brilliant title– Amazing Grace had to give a lecture a few months ago and sent me a list of “rejected titles,” and this one was by far the best. Oddly, it’s a topic that’s come up in my spiritual life quite a bit over the past week. In the last few days I’ve had conversations that have included the following lines from a variety of Catholics:
“People will always disappoint you.”
“Life can be joyful.”
“I want to be able to start living eternity now.”
“Joy and self-love are not something you can simply decide to have; they must be begged for.”
“Life is hard.”
I tend to find that many Catholics have one of two opinions on joy: the first is that they are or feel that they should be joyful, and when they’re unhappy, they feel guilty, or pretend not to be unhappy. The other is that they don’t really believe in joy, or don’t believe it means much, or believe that it is so deeply hidden within the Christian that it has little impact on his or her daily life.
I become fed up with both positions easily. I am suspicious of happy people, or people whom I suspect aren’t really all that happy. At the same time, I grow tired of the Catholic who takes himself too seriously, who seems delighted by nothing. I suppose this has a lot to do with my own emotional composition (I’ve been told I’m choleric-melancholic, and indeed, depending on what kind of alcohol I’m drinking, I like to either argue or cry). Still, my own approach to joy is very much a work in progress. How does one reconcile the longing for God, which nothing on earth can satisfy, with the joy the Christian life is supposed to bring us?
To be continued…