Living now what matters forever

We often wonder how people make it through crisis and trials. How they manage to hold their heads up high, even when everything around them seems impossible? Yet day after day, year after year, there are so many individuals that do so and do so with joy.  It is a joy that goes beyond simple comprehension, it is a joy that comes from a grateful heart; a heart that understands that each difficult step teaches and strengthens. 

In Philippians 4:6-7, we are told: “Do not worry about anything. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is this belief, this message that so many take as a mantra to guide their lives. Taking each day as it comes, knowing that no matter what storm is raging around them, they are being cared for. 

So many of us feel as if this joy is nearly impossible or at the very least fleeting, yet we know people who find joy no matter what life hands them. As I mentioned in my last article, “Rejoice Always,” it is learning to see the world through the glass that is half full, rather than the half empty one. It is realizing the blessings in all the turmoil. 

When we look to the New Testament, we see that Jesus came for the broken, the hurting, and the marginalized. Jesus knew that these were the people who desperately needed to hear His Word. It was these individuals that He could reach, help and heal; whose hearts were longing for truth, acceptance and love. It was then, as it is now, that it is in the brokenness that healing can begin. 

In allowing the healing grace of God to be poured into our lives, we allow joy to filter in as well. It is this grace that reflects on the faces of the truly joy-filled people we encounter. It is through the holes in our hearts that the light of God can shine through for others to see.  

A light that leads others to the same beautiful, wonderful healing and love that comes through Jesus. We are reminded that “the people who sat in the darkness have seen a great light” (Mt 4:16), we too have seen a great light and can rest assured that Jesus sheds a new light on all that challenges us. 

If we take a close look at the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), we come to understand how truly blessed we are, how it is in the adversity and challenges, that we gain so much. As we prepare to enter into the Advent season, a time when the world is wishing everyone glad tidings, let us strive to find the true happiness in our lives. Let us embrace our brokenness and open our hearts to the healing, allowing God to infuse our lives with true joy. So that we can become a true light in the darkness, so that others may know what faith can bring into their lives. 

Pope Francis says it beautifully: “Long faces do not proclaim Jesus. Joy alone and praise of God are the only way to advance the Gospel.” Richard Foster in his book “Celebration of Discipline” reminds us that “it is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores.” 

Traveling back in time, we look at those people in the Bible that Jesus ministered; we see how they picked themselves up and spread the Good News of Jesus’ teaching and love. It was the Samaritan woman who led her townspeople to Christ. It was the blind and lame, who professed the healing power of Jesus. It was the taxpayer, who forgiven and healed, went out and took care of those whom he had harmed and so many more. It was in their new found joy, in their knowledge that they were loved and accepted, that they proclaimed the goodness of God, through Jesus Christ. 

It does not mean that joy-filled people are blinded to what surrounds them, au contraire; they have a keener awareness, and recognize the need to share their joy. In his book, “Under the Influence of Jesus,” Joe Paprocki states: “Kingdom dwellers are filled with a deep and limitless joy, one that bears little resemblance to fleeting euphoria. This joy is pervasive, abiding gladness, an inner peace that flows from being secure in God’s love.” What a beautiful summation of what fills these people, something to aspire to ourselves. To quote Paprocki further, we are reminded that “before we invite someone to enter the Kingdom of God, we had better show some joy.”

Let our lives and deeds reflect the true joy of fully understanding and knowing that we are children of God, loved beyond measure. By choosing to live joy-filled lives, we allow ourselves a small taste of heaven here on earth and to quote Deacon Bruce Bonneau (thanks for the perfect ending and title) “to live right now what matters forever.” 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren.

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