Friday, April 25, 2008

That Your Joy Will Be Complete

Yesterday at noon Mass the priest spoke of Christ's giving us peace so that our joy may be complete. He shared of a friend who told him four ways in which our joy will always be complete. They are practical statements of advice: always pay your bills, pay your taxes, watch your health, and obey God's commandments.

For the first two, it is obvious that stress and trouble come from not paying what we owe. At a deeper level, we have problems of all kinds when we do not obey God's commandments.

What stopped me short was the advice to watch our health, for if we do not have good health our joy, then, will not be complete. I did not have opportunity to ask him about this after Mass. Perhaps I ask too many questions, as I'd asked a couple two days in a row having to do with Scripture or something said in a homily.

But it seems as if one can watch one's health, but often (most often?) health is something one cannot control. Yes, we can eat properly, not smoke, not drink (this is following God's commandments in various ways), exercise, and try to have loving attitudes and inner calm. But one cannot control various diseases or illnesses coming on, or a drunk driver altering one's spine, or a stroke or heart disease or various maladies that stem from heredity.

Does that mean that all these people will not have complete joy? It is hard for me to fathom that God would intend that, for he says our joy will be complete in Christ.

Yes, for those who suffer poor health, it is very challenging to be joyful for one has to in extra measure cooperate with God, comprehend suffering as joy, accept suffering as a means of purification and of reparation for souls, and also to be open to receiving the grace of joy from God which often comes from the Holy Spirit and at times, also, through the mediation of graces from the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There is effort in one who suffers to cooperate with God in having joy. Complete joy is something I desire, and I desire it all the time. This morning my joy is not as complete as it is sometimes, and that makes one wonder if complete joy can be less complete and yet still complete joy. However, I will take some over the counter pain relievers, for often I forget to do that! It does help in joyfulness to have some of the pain assuaged. But more than subdued pain, the attitude and interior disposition seems to be the pivotal point of complete joy. Without love and graciousness of the mind and soul--of attitude--complete joy seems far less complete and squeezed out by irritability.

In general, one can watch one's health. But watching it does not mean one will always have good health. In fact, we all do suffer and die. Does that mean our joy is not complete and will not be complete? I think this statement is good advice but does not hold through in what Jesus hopefully meant. Our joy is complete in Him. That is a different kind of joy than a temporal kind of joy. Complete joy is only possible in Jesus Christ, and that requires loving Him and having a very close and personal relationship with Him.

In fact, it might have less to do with matters such as physical health.

I give much leeway to the practical suggestions offered for having complete joy, since the priest was sharing what a friend in Nigeria had said. In a country and culture with many trials of survival and health problems, one would view complete joy in practical ways and not quite in the same way as those who have more health aides and medical availability. Yet, it is a good idea to watch one's health, for without health, life is indeed altered and challenging in may ways.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Strange Virus

Even a strange virus can be offered to God for reparation for sins. "I offer this for love of Thee, Jesus, for the conversion of sinners and for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."

One day it can be better, and then a relapse hits. The coughing continues but not as frequently. The strange feeling of not being totally attached in the body comes and goes, one day in and one day out.

The ankles are painful and swollen. It is not easy to walk, but walk one must.

Yes, there are specific concerns for which to offer the strange virus to God. Not one cough or ache or icky sensation should be wasted. Even if there are moments of weakened attitude--these moments can be offered. Then, one must remember to offer the joys and the positive good spirit of suffering, as well.

Amazing Grace, a weeping Douglas Fir in the back Mary Garden of Agnus Dei, is dying. It was all right prior to leaving for the private retreat. Now it is dying from the top down, each day browning more and heading toward the lower branches. It is planted near the property line by the neighbors' house, and it may be as in the case with Green Spiral last fall, that their sprinkler system placed on the line, is causing too much water for a pine tree.

The death of Amazing Grace is worth offering to the Lord on High, for who shall climb the Holy Mountain? One with pure heart. The love of a weeping specimen tree and the expense of it, the expense of having it planted, and eventually of digging it out and letting it go to the landfill, is worthy of thought and joy in a life lived well. Yes, pine trees live and breathe and add beauty to the earth; and their deaths come and go as ours. Some notice and others do not, that life comes and goes in a variety of forms and species. The pure of heart love as much as possible, all life and note with equanimity of spirit the passing of even the smallest of events.

Even events lives and die. The Carthusian who wrote "The Interior Life" commented on experiences being very much a creation of God. And all creation comes from God for the benefit of the souls created by God. We learn from major sufferings and seemingly minor ones, that nothing is wasted for those who are on the trek, who seek God with pure heart and much love. Even if the love is tainted with some dead pine needles sticking out from our human minds and hands, we can desire to love with green hope and always with the amazing grace God provides.

An Opus Dei Vicar General in the land visited, reminded that I must be close to the Holy Spirit and to know that He is my friend, my parent, my brother, my Beloved. Yes, the Holy Spirit is what transforms all in the Sacraments; the Holy Spirit is love. The Holy Spirit breathes on us the breath of God and gives life to our forms and the forms of God's creation. For humans, the Holy Spirit animates our very souls.

Even the strange virus has a place in the body at this time, and while the body tries to eliminate it and cough it out, the healing comes as God wills. For now, there is much good use of the illness, and it is well and loving to offer this weakness for many intentions, for whatever use God wills of this time of decreased energy. The fresh spring air fills Agnus Dei from outside in, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary remains close to the maidservant of the Handmaid of the Lord.