Today’s post is about joy and envy. The first passage is from the Book of Psalms:
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord is God!
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
Then we move to St. Paul’s first Letter to the Thessalonians:
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
This brings us to these words of John the Baptist in the Gospel of John:
29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full.
Joy has always been a difficult virtue for me. I’m a grim person by nature, and am motivated by duty more than by anything else. I tend to focus on the bad, not the good, and on what needs to be fixed, not on what is worth celebrating. Yet our faith calls us to rejoice. Which means that I have a long, uphill struggle ahead of me to learn to be truly joyful. Focusing on the good in my life has been a start, and I’ve seen some success already.
Unfortunately, I’ve lately found this spiritual self-improvement hindered by serious bouts of envy. Seeing others who have what I myself long to possess, but cannot seem to grasp, brings out the worst in me. I don’t manifest it externally, at least directly. But I know it is eating me up inside, and almost certainly is affecting my mission as a Christian. What I need to do is to learn to find joy for myself in the joy of others, just like John the Baptist. I should be happy when others are happy- there is enough darkness in our world that any bit of light to be found is worth cheering for.
All the while, I will try and keep the words of the Prayer of St. Francis in mind:
- Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
- Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
- Where there is injury, pardon;
- Where there is discord, harmony;
- Where there is error, truth;
- Where there is doubt, faith;
- Where there is despair, hope;
- Where there is darkness, light;
- And where there is sadness, joy.
- O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
- To be consoled as to console;
- To be understood as to understand;
- To be loved as to love.
- For it is in giving that we receive;
- It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
- And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.