October 2, 2020

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

We are called to be joyful and hopeful in our broken world

Patti LambRecently, I enjoyed a socially-distanced dinner with a mentor—a Catholic priest—who lives across town. Years ago, I learned to bring my notebook whenever I have the opportunity to spend time with him. I scribble notes as he talks, and then I later reflect on his words.

That evening, I was distraught over multiple circumstances, and I unpacked my angst at the dinner table of a quaint Italian restaurant. After listening to my diatribe, his calm yet confident response went something like this:

“The Catholic Christian should be joyful, hopeful and life giving,” he said.

I’m not sure if I captured his words precisely, but that’s what I had written down in my notebook. It’s also written on an index card next to my computer, where it serves as a reminder when dreary headlines and heavy e-mails come at me.

  • Joyful
  • Hopeful
  • Life giving

He broke down that statement for me, explaining that our Catholic faith is firmly rooted in the belief of the Resurrection. By his death and resurrection, Jesus enabled us to share in eternal life, and for this reason we are called to be joyful. In essence, he was saying that we know how this all ends, so we can remain joyful in the midst of a chaotic world.

But I continued to process these three qualities further in the weeks following that dinner.

I had to remind myself that joy is different than happiness. In one of his podcasts, Father Mike Schmitz of Ascension Presents said, “We long for happiness, but we’re made for joy.”

Father Mike explained that happiness is circumstantial, based on chance or good fortune. He defined joy, however, as “the abiding and pervasive sense of well-being.” Even when we find ourselves in a crisis or deep in sorrow, we can still be joyful, he explained, because we know—we are certain—that God is with us.

I had to do some research on the Catholic definition of “hope.” I looked to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the definition of Christian hope, and found that it is “the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (#1817).

I also had to do a little digging to search for what it means to be “life giving.” I found an excerpt from a homily that

St. John Paul II shared at a Mass for Families in Onitsha, Nigeria, in February of 1982 that I think applies to all of us.

“… Your love for each other is complete and fruitful when it is open to others, to the needs of the apostolate, to the needs of the poor, to the needs of orphans, to the needs of the world,” he said.

We’re living during a pandemic, in a time of great political tension, barraged by headlines about the troubled state of our world. But if we live intentionally as my mentor suggests, acting from a place of joy and hope, from a heart that is life giving and focused on serving, our minds can be less flustered by what’s transpiring in this world.

We can genuinely be joyful and hopeful in a broken world—a world riddled with suffering—because we know we were created for God’s kingdom. Our mission is to love and serve him and others until he calls us home.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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