Ode to Joy

joyWhen I was employed and was actually paid to write, I worked with a young woman who had the same hours as me – we came in early in the morning and left in the neighborhood of 4 o’clock. So she and I were about the only ones in the office for an hour or so each morning. I was usually the first to arrive, but each morning, just as soon as she arrived and had put her lunch in the fridge and turned on her computer, she came to my office, sat down, and commenced complaining.

Now, I have told you all before that I think I tend to be a glass-half-empty kind of person, especially as compared to Bill, who sees the glass half full even if the glass is totally empty. But, compared to this fellow employee, I wore rose colored glasses. She didn’t limit her complaints to work, though she did complain a fair amount about her job. But she complained about her husband, and whined about her mother, and grumbled about the weather or her health or what she had for dinner the night before.

It really got to the point that I considered not turning on my light for a bit just to put off listening to her gripe for a bit longer. But then I would remind myself that maybe my listening to her complaints got everything off her chest and she was as cheerful as can be the rest of the day. Somehow I don’t think so.

Blessed are they who are poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy….

Not that I want to tell God how to do his work (and I say that while cautiously looking up to dodge the lightning bolt) but it seems as though Jesus could have saved himself the three years of teaching by just climbing the mountain and preaching the Beatitudes the day after the Cana wedding. Because they pretty much say everything Jesus taught for his full three years in just a few sentences.

Really, think about it. The rich man and the eye of the needle. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. He who is without sin shall cast the first stone. All of these lessons taught by Jesus say the same thing: Always be humble and kind.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

According to our homilist, the word from which the term blessed in the Beatitudes is translated means so much more than blessed in its original language. (Greek? Aramaic? Hebrew? See? I’m a biblical scholar.) He said that there is no single English word that translates the full meaning of the word. Blessed is partially correct, but overflowing with joy is closer to the correct translation.

So what is my takeaway from the Beatitudes? That what God wants for us is to be overflowing with joy, and moreover, to be sharing this same abundant joyfulness with others through love and humility and kindness and a gentle spirit. Because just like being around a grouchy person like the woman with whom I worked can make you crabby yourself, being with someone full of joy can make you joyful as well, because abundant joy is contagious.

After all, Jesus concluded the beatitudes with these words: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

I’m determined to encourage joy through my own joy. It should be quite easy as the temperatures at our AZ home are finally creeping into the 70s this week.

Joy.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

The Importance of Being Important

O when the saints go marching in
When the saints go marching in
O Lord I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in. – Author unknown, but song made famous by Louis Armstrong

There comes a point in everyone’s life – at least everyone over the age of 55 or 60 – when you start asking yourself, how did I get to be this age and just what have I accomplished in my life. For me, it hit quite early – somewhere in the neighborhood of 30. There were probably a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which was that I was going through profound marriage difficulties that ultimately resulted in divorce. Nothing makes you feel like a great success more than a divorce. I’m being sarcastic.

For others, it may be when you turn 40, or maybe 50. Here I am, you might say, 50 years old and I’m still not a millionaire. Or I still haven’t gotten my MBA. Or there is no Corvette in my garage. Or I don’t have a garage.

When you think about it, however, it’s all about how you measure success.

350px-All-Saints

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, a painting by Fra Angelico, 15th century.

Yesterday was November 1, and Catholics (and probably some other religions) celebrated All Saints Day. For Catholics, it’s a holy day of obligation, meaning we are supposed to attend Mass, no matter on what day of the week it falls. In a most unsaintly way, I am always glad when it falls on a Sunday, thereby killing two birds with one stone. Shame on me.  It’s probably likely there will never be the word “saint” before my name.

I don’t know if it was because it was All Saints Day or if it was in the regular church reading cycle, but yesterday’s gospel was from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as told by St. Matthew.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus went on to say, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

Jesus’ testimony to the crowd, and therefore to us, isn’t anything new. A few weeks ago he told his disciples that in order to get to heaven, we have to have the faith of children. This time he reminds us that people with simple faith and simple needs will be first in line to greet St. Peter.

Gospel readings such as this one remind me how complicated Christian people sometimes make our faith. We get caught up in political righteousness when it seems to me really all God expects of us is to have a simple and pure faith in him and kindness to others. Love God and love one another. I found our priest’s homily meaningful. He said that while we all measure success by how much money we have or how successful we are in our professional lives, or even how successful our children are, in reality the Beatitudes are Jesus’ blueprint for success. Boom.

It’s not complicated. And it wasn’t complicated for most of the saints. They modeled their lives after Jesus, and now we should model our lives after them.

I’ll try, as long as I don’t have to live off locusts and honey like St. John the Baptist.

ReinieBy the way, When the Saints Come Marching In was played at my father’s funeral, partially because he was a fan of Louis Armstrong, but mostly because he was one of those saints that marched right in!