A journey to Perfect Joy ©
Mary and Joseph journeyed. The shepherds journeyed. The wise men journeyed. We too journey. We are pilgrims…persons who journey to a sacred place …to a place deep within ourselves …a place where we might see in our soul the likeness of God …a place of encounter with Christ …a place of free and full union with our brothers and sisters …a place of perfect joy.
It is a long journey. It is a journey into the light of day, then into the darkness, and finally to the Light that inhabits the darkness…a Light that can never be diminished by darkness.
We are strangers in a world that does not fill our hearts with profound and enduring peace. We are exiles from a land where Infinite Love governs. We are spiritual travellers on the same journey into the Dark Night, in pursuit of perfect joy.
The joy of Christ is ours because of our faith, hope and love, notwithstanding the turbulence and sadness that sometimes clouds our view of the Son. The joy of faith, hope and Love is more robust than pleasure that washes away when the rain begins to fall. Joy is built solidly on a foundation of Christ-centered hope, which is not wishful thinking, but the concrete certainty that the sunrise follows the darkest night and that new life follows the coldest winter.
We journey in humility to our heavenly Father, that he might grant us in accord with the riches of your glory to be strengthened with power by your Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; so that we, rooted and grounded in love, may comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth of your glory, and to know the love of his son that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with the Spirit and the fullness of Eternal Life …to which we are heirs because of our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus, our brother.
Prayer – The Journey Inward
Prayer is life itself. It is the clearest evidence we have of the fact of our existence and of the dignity of our existence. Praying is breathing …spiritually. It is
drawing in the breath of life though the Holy Spirit and expelling the darkness that threatens our life. It is a gentle and creative communion with the Trinity as life-giving community.
To pray, to meditate or to contemplate, all we need is to be present, truly present …grounded in the moment, authentic and open to the constant flow of God’s unconditional love for us. It is the most profound experience of reality.
Prayer is a response. It is a plant for which humility is the seed and our confession of helplessness and gratitude are its roots.
It is a plant that is drawn to the Son, nourished by the Spirit, in the direction of the Creator of Life. Prayer is a response because the heart that prays has first heard the gentle voice of God …deep within.
How do we pray? Technically, there are many forms of prayer, but the form must never be a substitute for sincerity of heart. It is not the mind that penetrates the carapace with which daily living encrusts our craving heart …it is the Spirit within us that prays. It is from the human heart that the Spirit communicates most easily with the source of all Life …with the Prince of Peace and the author of Perfect Joy.
Community – The Journey Outward
Effective prayer animates our lives. It liberates us from fear and the paralysis that ensues. It fills us with hope and love, and catapults us into community. It illuminates the law that supports all others: To love God with all our heart and our neighbour as ourselves. It underscores the unity of the two aspects of that law.
Indeed, once filled by the Spirit of God’s love, we spontaneously reach outward. We are compelled to reach out and create with others a community of Love – the kingdom of God. Differences fade and we come to see all of humanity as a family of brothers and sisters united by the same longings and aspirations, and marked by the same dignity as sons and daughters of one loving Creator.
Indeed, the Holy Trinity presents the most perfect example of how dynamic community can be …how life-giving it can be …how it can be creative in the very best sense. In the Trinity, we see that we are made holy by the selflessness of our outward view …our profound respect for otherness. In the Trinity, we see the necessity of keeping in balance the requirements of uniqueness and distinctiveness, and the imperatives of connectedness.
We have numerous examples of Trinity to make our journey a holy one …the trinity of God, my neighbour and myself …the trinity of God, humanity and Creation …and the trinity of God, prayer and action. I would like to consider these three for a few moments.
First, let’s look at the triad that links God to our neighbours and ourselves. Jesus left no doubt about what the Father expects of us.
In making an unequivocal declaration about what is the commandment that supersedes all others, he left no doubt that loving God and loving neighbour is one inseparable decree. In fact, it is more than a commandment …it is the key to God’s house. Indeed, it is also the soothing balm that heals the spiritual ailments that interrupt our journey to it.
In fact, I would like to up the anti here a bit. You will have guessed that by neighbour I meant not only those who live in close proximity to us …in the next pew, the next house, or the next desk …but also those who do not share our faith in the journey.
It is the Holy Spirit that propels us on this journey …and the Holy Spirit is like a wind …it blows where it will. Growing in fraternal love for Christians and non-Christians alike is not just a cute or trendy concept …it is a vital part of the journey: I have come among you so that all might be one …Make peace with your brother before presenting your offering at the altar.
Joy – The Journey Home
Scripture tells us that the wise men who came to pay tribute to the infant Jesus “went home by another way”. Literally, this means that they followed a route that avoided a meeting with Herod that would have posed an immediate danger to Jesus’ life since the ambitious ruler was intent on snuffing out any potential opposition. Figuratively, the detour is a dramatic metaphor for the substantive change in their lives. They are no longer the same people, just as we are not longer the same persons from the moment we truly appreciate what it means to encounter Jesus in our earthly lives.
In the end, conversion is also about letting go …about letting go of the illusion of control …of letting go of guilt about the past …letting go of fear about the future …and letting go of obsessions and illusions about the present. In the end, conversion is about going home …albeit by following a road less travelled …unfamiliar …riddled with light and shadows …letting go in the manner that Jesus let go of what he could have clung to …in order to lead us home by another way.
This letting go is for a purpose. It is about freedom …the freedom to be who we really are. God said to Moses in response to his question about how to describe the Almighty. He said: Tell them to call me I AM …not I WAS or I WILL BE …Just I AM. Through the Incarnation, I AM is both human and divine.
A leading figure in the history of human psychology, Carl Jung, was once asked by one of his followers who had just read John Bunyan’s book, Pilgrim’s Progress: “What has your pilgrimage really been?” And the aging Jung answered: “My journey consisted in climbing down ten thousand ladders so that now at the end of my life I can extend the hand of friendship to this little clod of earth that I am”.
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“I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (From the Book of Ezekiel)
Heavenly Father, we pray for the wisdom and courage to ask your forgiveness for the times we have lacked faith, hope and love. We pray that the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love displace our illusions and fears, and bring deep inner healing …and that we may draw closer in Perfect Joy to your Son, sent to us in humility and obedience so that we might know the way home. Finally Father, grant us the gift of mercy, the pearl of great value, and the grace of continuous conversion. May we experience this holy season of Advent as a Journey to Perfect Joy. We ask this through Jesus, our brother. Amen. (From the mission: Advent – A Journey)