Written on: June 28, 2023
We have a custom in many Christian congregations, parishes, and religious communities of marking the feast of Pentecost – fifty days after Easter – by drawing from a basket a paper symbol of the Holy Spirit (dove or flame, usually) with one of the “gifts” or “fruits” of the Spirit written on it. The gifts and fruits include such things as knowledge, wisdom, counsel peace, kindness, self-control, gentleness, and love. This year, I got JOY. I pray to have it in reality and to share it. The Holy Spirit within us, around us, ever in our midst, that grace-filled presence of God-with-us, if recognized and allowed to inspire, can transform our lives and our world. My faith in that same Holy Spirit helps me be open to love, and therefore, open to joy. The joy that comes from God’s loving presence in my life usually requires being attentive to the moment. In our world where there is so much noise, so much distraction, it is easy to miss joy.
Let me give you an example of being attentive to the moment and experiencing deep down, God-sent joy. I was recently driving to an event with some other Sisters around the time that schools were letting out. We were stopped behind a school bus – which might ordinarily have sent me down the path of impatience and worry, especially since we were a little late leaving for our destination. But I caught sight of a little boy, not more than two or three years old, walking from their house toward the bus with his mom. It was evident that he was excited and I guessed that he might be meeting his brother or sister. When the young people got off the bus, I saw a girl of about 11 or 12 get off with her friends. The little boy I was watching with his mom started running. I was afraid the sister might stay with her buddies and ignore the little one, but no – Instead, he ran to her and she opened her arms and they hugged each other. What an incredibly beautiful moment I was lucky to witness – pure, unadulterated sibling love expressed with not a trace of embarrassment. JOY! Theirs — and now mine, as well. Because I happened to pay attention to the moment.
The joy that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, like peace, is not always like the joy and peace we hear or read about or make movies about. It is not the superficial joy of the party crowd. It can appear in unusual places. When I see my nephew’s family and friends gather around his hospital bed where he is trying to fight off the bad stuff that sometimes creeps into our bodies when we are not looking, I see the suffering. But at the same time, I see and I share joy because of the way that he is completely wrapped in love and caring.
Jesus promised his disciples joy right when he knew he was sure to be arrested and tortured in a few hours.
“You are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you……Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and so your joy will be complete.” (John 16: 22, 24)
Think of times when you have been able to really pay attention to the moment and to feel real joy: looking at your grandchild; sharing a sunset or a full moon; accomplishing something that matters; falling in love; forgiving someone who hurt you, Rev. Ron Rolheiser writes, “Joy is a sure sign of the life of God. Joy constitutes the inner life of God. God is joy.” (Joy – A Sign of God. June 2021)
Lucky me – I got JOY for Pentecost – and I keep getting joy in life!
From a Faith Perspective appears in the Bucks County Courier Times and The Intelligencer, and we are grateful for their permission to share it here. Sr. Eileen White, GNSH is a frequent contributor. It was published in the Sunday, June 11, 2023 edition.