"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

St Luke’s True Joy: Three Dimensions

The statue of the Consolatrix Afflictorum in the Cathedral of Luxembourg, after the entire conservation-restoration by Muriel Prieur, 2008

T
rue joy is extravagant joy. The shepherd who risks exposure of the ninety-nine sheep to wolves and thieves while he squanders his precious time and energy just to look for the one percent would definitely be frowned upon by people in the corporate world. It is not only extravagant, but it is also foolish. No one would put in harm’s way the proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs just to look for a missing egg. But this is precisely how Luke tries to use the literary technique of exaggeration to convey to his readers that true joy can be very elusive or difficult to find. It is reserved for those who would be willing to take the highest possible risks. The shepherd in Luke’s gospel is not only foolish but catastrophic. The true owner of the flock of sheep has all the right to fire the hired shepherd. But that is just in terms of a worldly mentality. This is one warning that St Luke gives us, we must not treat the parables like a business model. Because if we do, we will never get a glimpse of what true joy really consists of. The only model that this joy follows is the model of extravagance.

True joy is Συνχαίρει (Synchairei). This word comes from sun and chairo meaning to rejoice with, congratulate, to sympathize in gladness (Strong's Greek 4796). This is a special kind of rejoicing–rejoicing-with–especially in the recovery of what was lost and especially if it is the beloved. It would truly be an extravagant joy to behold. Jesus says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Lk 15:6-9). True joy is to delight in another who is the beloved. St Ignatius of Loyola, in the third rule of the discernment of spirits, says, "I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all" (SE 316). The basic disposition to receive this consolation or true joy for St Ignatius is to have a purified or mortified desire, that is, with "holy indifference." Someone who is not disposed is being misled through his or her own impure desires and certainly cannot delight or take joy in another. St Ignatius was very much influenced by St Augustine, who put all human longings as a longing for a happy life. “When I seek for you, my God, my quest is for the happy life” (Book X, no 29). Happiness is everyone’s goal, although pursued in different ways within the vast realm of memory. For someone who has truly recognized from memory the joy he or she is looking for, there is great rejoicing when what has been lost or forgotten is found. This does not mean though that the happy life is simply the sum of our past, present, and future experiences. It is not as simple as that. Happiness could come only from God who is beyond past, present, and future. St Augustine says, “Let me not, Lord, in this my heartfelt testimony to you, accept as happiness every joy that I encounter.” In other words, as we seek happiness in this life, we may have joyful and good recollections; however, these are not the total fulfillment that we seek. “This is true happiness in life,” St Augustine says, “to take joy in Thee, for Thee, because of Thee—this, nothing else, is happiness. Those who do not know this pursue their joy elsewhere, and though it is no true one, yet they cannot wrench their desire entirely free from some representation of that joy.”

True joy is a mother's joy. The perfect model of true joy next to our Lord is his mother who is honored with the title that dates back to the second century—"Our Lady of Consolation," or "Mary, Consoler of the Afflicted." It is widely venerated by the Order of St Augustine. Mary's joy was extravagant. We can compare the woman in the gospel to Mary, who throws an extravagant party for all her neighbors. The party even costs more than the single coin recovered. This to me is very much like Mary. She risked her very life to become the Mother of God. She could have been stoned to death after people found out about her teenage pregnancy. Mary could have said No like what many would have done—following an it's-just-a-coin or there-would-always-be-another-coin-out-there frame of mind. However, Mary took an extravagant liking to this one coin because she surmised how everything depended on it. Such extravagance gave way to her fullness of grace. Did she say “yes” to being the Mother of God thinking of her legacy or how she will be remembered? Definitely not! Like most mothers, Mary did not think of herself when raising her son. She had only in mind Jesus, how to raise him up well to prepare him to stand on his own two feet. Mary shied away from the limelight, evading public attention and interest. At the apparition in Lourdes to the 14-year-old Bernadette, she introduced herself simply as “the lady” or even much humbler “that one.” It was enough for her to just accompany this poor, unassuming girl in praying the rosary. It was only after Bernadette mustered the confidence to ask that the lady revealed her real identity. The Lady said to Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

To this day, the poor Jewish girl con grande animo—with big spiritcontinues to offer herself to contain the uncontainable joy of God. When Jesus said to John, "Behold your mother" she was not only given the key, but she became the key to our happiness—"to take joy in Thee, for Thee, because of Thee—this, nothing else, is happiness." God’s plan to come closer and closer to us becomes a reality through Mary as key. No wonder she does not need to be extolled because what is important is to bring us closer to the fruit of her womb, her son. When people remember her as a mother, Jesus is remembered. That alone is the joy of Mary's heart. Do you, like Mary, con grande animo, allow yourself to be God’s instrument for drawing others towards God? Do you count among your blessings the blessings of other people? Is your joy the joy of another? Let us give to Mary what she deserves being the woman whose joy is the joy of our God. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Joy to be found and embraced by the Beloved and Joy to love the Beloved extravagantly and doing what He wills...Making Him smile and joyful...especially when giving joy to persons entrusted and given by Him...These I have learned today and have to live out daily... Thanks Fr. JM for sharing what is true joy... GBU!

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    1. Thank you also for your reflection on the "joy of being found... by the Beloved"! GBU!

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  2. Extravagant joy… Sometimes people would think that we are OA, shallow, or even crazy when expressed overjoy or excitement in a very ordinary and simple thing or situation. Yet as one saying goes, “Don’t judge the book by its cover”, for we may never know what is in the heart of that person! It may not be important to you or it may appear like rubbish for you but for me, it is the like the most important treasure. Unless we will step in others’ shoes then we will be able to find out, ‘why?’.
    As in the book, “Old Henry” by Joan W. Blos. People judged him so rudely, “indifferent, untidy, crazy”. But Old Henry looked at life so differently… He was much happier than them, living his life to the fullest… Yet, Old Henry was not able to resist all the comments of the people in the neighborhood… So he gave in… He has given up being “happy”, maybe thinking that this will make much more people happier… Then, in the end, neither the neighborhood nor Old Henry was happy…
    We cannot please everybody… We cannot simply place our own happiness from what the people are thinking about us… Everything changes and everything doesn’t stay the same… People change, feelings change… We have to search for the true happiness – God’s love. Like Mary, she didn’t think of the pros and cons of her being pregnant without a man… She didn’t think of what the people might think about her… She was only glad and wondering how this mystery in her misery (out of humility) will be fulfilled. And that in her Magnificat, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… My spirit REJOICES in God my Savior…”
    Extravagant Joy can be felt only when we found in our life the sole source of our true happiness – God’s love.

    Many thanks po, Fr. JM, for another rich reflection and inspiration this week... God bless you...

    Have you been busy these past days? :')
    Take care always...

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    1. Thanks so much for your overflowing reflection and sharing of your heart! Nothing is ordinary to a person who is happy! Old Henry! one of my favorite children's books (Caldecott Honor Award) thank for sharing the story of this gem. And finally for honoring Mother Mary by singing her Magnificat! GBU!

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    2. Thank you so much also for patiently reading my super long reflection... 😉
      "For from the overflow of the heart... The MIND speaks..."

      Hmmn... Old Henry is one of my favorite books also... Aside from the beautiful and colorful illustrations, it gives a lot of lessons as well... Especially with regards to community life...

      Thank you po uli... GBU and TC..

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