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"SEEKING JOY", PART IV of the series "HUMOR and JOY"

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"HUMOR AND JOY" SERIES

PART IV: "SEEKING JOY… Meanwhile…

ENJOY HUMOR, SMILES and LAUGHTER”

“A joyful heart is the health of the body…”


In this blog, we look further at the pursuit of joy—a life-giving aspect of our walk with and for the Lord. Joy that runs deep is worth seeking—especially when the quick laugh or moments of happiness wind down, and pain seems to be surrounding us. We’ll give some challenging scriptures that point the way, see where humor and laughter fit in, and even share some papal views.

There is a natural joy that we can all have—for instance, during happy celebrations and holiday times when we easily enjoy what surrounds us (people, mood, special occasion, decorations, food, beauty, etc.) and what is happening. The “joy of the Lord” does not require those happy things. But it is quite possible—or rather, one of those “natural” improbabilities/ impossibilities made possible by the action of the Holy Spirit and grace. It is as possible as any other gift or fruit of the (Holy) Spirit—that joy that runs deep.

Our God of Love was and is willing to come into our messes… into our “uncomfortable” places in life. He is willing to endure and deliver/ redeem/ restore our broken ways. It’s why He came. That means, too, that He can help draw us into joy.

As we walk it all through, it’s likely that it will not come as soon as we would like. It is not magic. But God’s “slow” does not mean “no”, thank heavens!. So much in the Lord’s realm is not "instant", as so many of us "modern" Christians have been culturally formed to expect.

Pursuing joy, hopefully, is a desirable thingfor Jesus said it is as we seek that we will find. Again, connected to all this is news that we “moderns” may not see as so desirably good. But—troubles come in life to everyone. Why not seek for the Lord’s kind of joy in the middle of it all? It is true: Deep, abiding joy usually comes at a price—but isn’t that true of most of what matters in life?... The price we speak of is this: being surrender to (then rejoicing in) the Lord and His ways—when we don’t understand, or don’t like it, or even want to fight against it.

Even our “Smiling Pope”, Pope John Paul I, (who was pope for 33 days in 1978, before St. Pope John Paul II) said that he experienced suffering inside, at times, when there was a smile outside, on his face. He also said that “healthy” humor was helpful in dry times in life. St. Padre Pio—who suffered so greatly for most of his life—was known to have a good sense of humor, and even participate in some practical jokes with his fellow friars.

On the human, emotional, desire-physical-tangible level, we can’t do it by ourselves. And that often means: surrender to God and “taking up our cross” as needed... and a willingness to wait... for "Resurrection" ... on His timetable. (Volumes could and have been written on this paragraph alone.)

Our flesh wants to say: “None of that is good news!” Impatience and all that we want right now can’t possibly see some things as “good” or this as “good news”. But with some patience, we can look forward to the Resurrection aspects connected to the difficulties (and even know that some of our pain can be applied in intercession for others. And it can be specifically used by the Lord as a “ransom” for the benefit of others. His life was given “as a ransom for many”, and as partakers in suffering, we can, in part, partake in His.)

Also, combined with Jesus’ prayer “that His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven”… we can hope and believe in some aspects of resurrection life down here on earth—in His ways and in His time. As we get past the surrender part (sometimes that’s an on-going thing, like “forgiveness” may be), we can set our minds and hearts to both trust and cooperate with His plans, purposes, guidance and blessings more and more readily so that joy becomes much, much easier and present. Our minds, hearts, responses and words can slip more quickly into a thanks and rejoicing mode. But even when it is just plain difficult and directly opposite of any soul or body response, we still can know that it can eventually become both a deep well and a readily chosen response—as we continue to seek and pursue it.

It is easy—in this free-thinking and often a free-wheeling society that we live in—to stay “stuck” on our own ways of seeing, wanting and doing things.

“Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.” 1

BUT…

“Forbidden fruit creates many different kinds of jams.” 2

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Robert Frost spoke some true and applicable wisdom in the following words so many of us have heard before (from “The Road Less Traveled”).

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could…

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

…I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Jesus agrees. “…The gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction… Narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” [Mt 7:13,14]

OUR DYING AND RISING

“In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” [Jn. 16:33]

We live in a fast-paced, I-can-do-anything (good, “bad”, or indifferent) culture. We are quite accustomed to independent thinking and self-reliant living, and often self-motivated and self-focused buying/ recreating/ doing/ deciding/ choosing, etc. At least, that seems to be the expected pattern in many arenas of life—and the prevailing assumption in our media, news and reporting. The “realities” we see on TV and in magazines and many or most books and blogs are so far (in attitudes, practices, assumptions, priorities, etc.) from what we hear the Lord whisper to our hearts, and what we see and hear in scripture.

It was in a situation very similar to this that Jesus asked his disciples (as some of the listeners were turning away), "Will you also leave?"

So-o-o-o… The “good news” becomes, on an experiential level, “less-than-‘good’ ” news. It becomes downright difficult to hear. We feel like saying, “C’mon, God… Are you kidding??! There must be a better—or easier—way to find ‘joy’!”


LET’S LOOK AT PAUL’S WRITING

“I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me…” [Gal. 2:20]

“If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him…” [Rom. 6:8]

“…I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things… that I may gain Christ and be found in him… to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” [Phil. 3:8, 10, 11]

“For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection… If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him… he lives for God.” [Rom 6:5, 8, 9, 10b]

“God takes the initiative… ‘he has loved us first’ [1 Jn. 4:19]… he alone ‘gives the growth’ [1 Cor. 3:7]. This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in demanding and challenging times that seem to engage our entire life and energy.

THE DEGREE OF YOUR PAIN

When someone does have the joy of the Lord, some others—even many others—may never know the degree or depth of his/her pain or sorrow. The world is accustomed to looking at outward behaviors and may assume that the joy exhibited is simply circumstantial happiness. Others may wonder where or what it is. But the Lord knows.

This kind of joy doesn’t need to wait until the pain has gone away—although some of it or all of it may, at rare times, thank God. Rather, the pain can be more enveloped by and companioned by the Lord’s miracle and grace of joy. This “joy companion overshadows the sorrow (or pain, or trouble, or depression, or the waiting, or grief, or loss etc.), as a mature shade tree would cover us and minimize the effects of the glaring sun and stifling heat on a sizzling hot day. This reminds me of the Lord’s covering wings in Ps. 91.

FINALLY FINDING JOY… OR… RECEIVING HIS JOY

Living joy during undesirable situations is not magic, as we have noted. As was mentioned before, it’s not like flipping a switch and it’s there forever. But it is REAL. It will be tested at times. But it can be chosen again and again. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we push a button and “snap!” it’s here again. We choose to continue to seek and pursue, once again. We open the door when we choose to look where the Lord shows us to focus: on the “good”; on His call; on His grace and beauty, goodness and majesty; His plans and purposes; on all that gives us that stirs gratitude in us… Sometimes—if fact, many, many times—we need to stop and ask Him to touch our hearts and open our dulled and blinded eyes to see and appreciate the innumerable things that we never thank Him for.

Real joy is true and deeply joyous joy, the kind that is more unshakable than what we are accustomed to, naturally, in life… much like “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding …” [Phil. 4:7] The Lord loves when we seek passionately after Him and the gifts that He wants to give us.

It may help to look at a few paragraphs from the Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis . Then we will look at where humor and laughter fit in to the journey, and tell a couple jokes. (Relief is coming: the last two parts of this series are mostly jokes—effortless and enjoyable.)

THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL

There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even in the greatest distress.

My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord’ [Lam. 3:17, 21-23,26] ” 4

In the Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis expressed the joyous and contagious attitude from which the “good news” was to be spread throughout the earth. He had thoughts about the need for this, about how this could be carried out, and some affirming reflections on “joy”, itself…

“… [T]hese instances of joy flow from the infinite love of God, who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ… Thanks solely to this encounter—or renewed encounter—with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from the narrowness of self-absorption … For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? “ 5

“The disciples never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: ‘It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.’ (Jn 1:39)” 6

“[E]vangelization is first…preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him Many of them are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face… It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’… Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty, and who invite others to a delicious banquet.” 7

“ ‘No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord. ‘ …No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her… The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk: whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms… No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will… [H]is life… impels us onward!” 8

Pope Francis presents many scriptures concerning “joy”. “ ‘Shout aloud and sing for joy!’ [Isa. 12:6]… ‘Get you up to a high mountain, O herald of good tidings to Zion; lift up your voice with strength… ‘ [Isa. 40:9]. ‘Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth! …For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.’ [Isa. 49:13]. ‘Rejoice greatly…! Shout aloud…! Lo, your king come to you; triumphant and victorious is he.’ [Zech. 9:9] ‘The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives you the victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival.’ [Zeph. 3:17]” 9

“The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice… ‘Rejoice!’ is the angel’s greeting to Mary. [Lk. 1:28]. Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb [cf.Lk 1:41]… Mary proclaims: ‘My spirit rejoices in God my Savior’ [Lk.1:47]. When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: ‘For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled’ [Jn. 3:29]. Jesus himself ‘rejoiced in the Holy Spirit’ [Lk. 10:21]… [and] brings us joy: ‘I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete’ [Jn. 15:11]. Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart… ‘You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy’ [Jn. 16:20]… ‘But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ [Jn. 16:22].The disciples ‘rejoiced’ [Jn. 20:20] at the sight of the risen Christ… [T]he first Christians ‘ate their food with glad and generous hearts’ [Acts 2:46]. Wherever the disciples went, ‘there was great joy’ [Acts 8:8]; even amid persecution they continued to be ‘filled with joy’ [Acts 13:52]… Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?”10


WHERE DOES HUMOR FIT IN?

Let’s take another—more light-hearted—scripture break. As many know, scripture actually is a mighty weapon [the “sword of the Spirit… the word of God”] in our arsenal against evil…

“A laywoman who was taking a Scripture course discovered a burglar in her kitchen. Since she had no weapon to scare him off, she raised her hand and shouted, ‘Acts 2:38!’

The burglar froze… so the woman called 911. The police arrived and were amazed to find the burglar still frozen where he stood.

‘What did you say to him?’ they asked her.

She replied that she had just quoted scripture to him: ‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.’

As the cops put the burglar in the squad car, they asked him, ‘Why did her scripture verse scare you so much?’

‘Scripture?’ said the burglar, ‘I thought she said she had an axe andtwo 38’s!” 11


So where does humor fit in?

Maybe it’s “in the meantime”… before we experience all the joy that we seek? Thank God for the gift of good-hearted humor! It helps! And in the times when “good” seems to be as hard to find as water in a desert, we may be able to find the sort of tongue-in-cheek, (even “roll-your eyes”) kind of “good”… the “this may be as good as it gets” kind of “good”… But—even that’s a start! And in God’s word we are advised not to despise small beginnings.

Happiness, joy and laughter are certainly related. They overlap, but are not the same thing. Joy is something deep within that can be evidenced in a gentle peace or contentment, even when circumstances are not obviously “happy”. “Happy” is a state of being that is more visible, and outward-situations/experiences-oriented, while being connected to what satisfies, gives pleasure, or produces enjoyment. Laughter can be produced by either one—or by the ridiculous happening or greeting card… or come out of “nowhere”!


LAUGHTER

Laughter often happens when we’re not expecting it. It takes us by surprise. In fact, some of the earlier and most original definitions of humor have described it as the quality of being “ludicrous: absurdly incongruous”. It is this aspect of a situation (or story, or joke, or observed happening) that makes us laugh. It’s when things seem opposite of what is expected that we tend to laugh. When things are startling, surprising or inconsistent it is easy to laugh.

Laughter, however, can cause a “break” in a more ‘downer’ day or a more ‘blah’ mood. When it grabs us, for a moment, we have a choice to re-focus… to look at things a little differently… to purposefully direct attention toward… “the good”. The “downer” just may become a little more hazy, with “gracious” overtones, and the “blah” can become a little more “lovely” and worthy of thanks and praise.

Who knows? Maybe even God Himself—coping and dealing with so, so, so much tragedy, waywardness, foolishness, hostility and outright rebellion—can use even the smallest bit of good that humor can bring. We do know that He always practices what He preaches, so He would, therefore, focus on the “good” in situations and in people.

In any event, we may as well be armed with as many tools—both natural and supernatural—as possible when facing the inevitable difficulties of life. I, for one, am most grateful to God for humor and laughter! He is the source of every good gift [James 1:17]. Although we often give credit everywhere else, it’s true that ultimately each and every good thing comes from His gracious hand. And, besides that, we may just find—as we get to know Him personally—that He has quite a sense of humor, Himself. Many of His friends throughout history have found this to be the case… and enjoyed it immensely. And—if we are going to spend an eternity with this Heavenly Bridegroom, wouldn’t it make sense to get on very personal terms with Him now?

Speaking of heaven

“Flying home to his diocese, the bishop was attempting to get his bag into the overhead rack. One of the other passengers helped him and then joked,

‘Will this get me to heaven, Your Excellency?’

‘Not on this flight, I hope,’ the bishop responded.” 12


The next blog will be posted by tomorrow, the feast of Maximillian Kolbe, and it will celebrate and describe his life.

The last two blogs in the “HUMOR and JOY” series—“PART V: LAUGHING IN RELATIONSHIPS” and “PART VI: AGING”—are in a very light vein. Their focus and major content is real and actual humor. These two subjects, as we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, simply beg for (at least a touch) of humor. Join us.


If you have missed any of THE “HUMOR AND JOY” SERIES…

We began with:

“PART I: WHY HUMOR?”

Many answers. Many reasons. Some jokes.

Next in the series was:

“PART II: RELIGIOUSLY RIDICULOUS CHURCH JOKES”

Full of religious humor and jokes.

Then we took a closer look at the differences in these related subjects. Each can have a very blessed place in our lives. That was in:

“PART III: JOY or HAPPINESS? The JOURNEY, the FOCUS and the LOVE”

The above blog that you just read was:

“PART IV: SEEKING JOY

Meanwhile, ENJOY HUMOR, SMILES and LAUGHTER”

This series is based on one we did in the summer of 2015. It was a series called, “HUMOR”, and was written and posted at trinitychurchsupply.com/blog by Kathy Boh. We enlarged it in 2017, and now present our newer version this summer of 2019.


FOOTNOTES:

1. The Second Book of Catholic Jokes, by Deacon Tom Sheridan, p. 63

2. Ibid, p. 37

3. The Joy of the Gospel, Evangelii Gaudium, Vatican translation, Pauline Books, p. 9

4. Ibid, p. 4,5

5. Ibid, p. 5,6

6. Ibid, p. 9,10

7. Ibid, p. 11

8. Ibid, p. 2

9. Ibid, p. 3

10. Ibid, p. 3,4

11. The Book of Catholic Jokes, by Deacon Tom Sheridan, p.52

12. Oh, Brother, by Brother Laughlan Sofield, ST, p. 29


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