Joy and Solidarity
I know that here at the Practical Catholic we talk a lot about the existential and spiritual value of suffering. But today, I want to flip the coin, a lot like Jurgen Moltmann whose own Theology of the Crucified God was the opposite side of the Theology of Hope, so too, my own heavy emphasis on suffering could use mediation, clarification and a dash of joy.
I am not a dour, harsh or extremely pious saintly man. Suffering has always made sense to me. I have learned that in accepting suffering with maturity we find redemption.
Pope Benedict said something once that indicates well where I have been journeying theologically and so I offer it here:
It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.— Pope Benedict XVI ( Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi)
However, note how the Holy Father says this acceptance asks us to transcend a limited perspective and see where we might find a wellspring of joy in the midst of trial. It is our arduous, daring and joyful task to create meaning in the midst silence. For the scriptures tell us, the saints testify, that Christ is our peace and our joy in the midst of suffering.
So, we turn once again to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and to his wisdom.
The Holy Spirit gives us joy. And he is joy. Joy is the gift in which all the othe gifts are included. It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with ourselves, that which can only come from being in harmony with God and with his creation. It belongs to the nature of joy to be radiant; it must communicate tself. The missionary spirit of the Church is none other than the impulse to communicate the joy which has been given. -Pope Benedict XVI, Christmas Address to the Roman Curia, 2008
Remembering this, we can be confident that this radiant joy, the joy of Anna, of Symeon, of Mother Mary and Paul and Peter and John, of Jesus Himself is itself an act of solidarity. Their rejoicing, the rejoicing of the saints is not removed from the sinful reality of the widespread human condition. It is in fact an act of faith taking place in the midst of sin’s chaotic order. Joy is a re-orientation of the human towards life in the midst of death. It is an act that communicates God to His people through Divine illumination in the life-giving Spirit of the Lord Who is Life and Love Himself.
Let us not be afraid of Joy, let us not be timid in the face of the unbridled, scandalous pleasure that God brings to a broken world.
Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don’t have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.
I can understand that. There is a moral attitude at work here. But this attitude is nonetheless wrong.
The loss of joy does not make the world better – and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good.
Joy, then, does not break with solidarity. When it is the right kind of joy, when it is not egotistic, when it comes from the perception of the good then it wants to communicate itself, and it gets passed on. In this connection, it always strikes me that in the poor neighborhoods of say, South America, one sees many more laughing happy people than among us. Obviously, despite all their misery, they still have the perception of the good to which they cling and in which they can find encouragement and strength.
In this sense we have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately only faith can give. That the world is basically good that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and to be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too can rejoice and receive good news.
All I can say is: Amen. I know I need to remember to trust that the world is basically good, and that Creation is en route to redemption. I know I need to remember that joy too is a form of solidarity. I think we could all use that.