Monthly Archives: October 2017

Joy Complete

“You will fill me with joy in your presence,” says the psalmist.  (Psalm 16:11)  Joy is an emotion that usually flows from something that gives us pleasure or makes us happy.

Over the years I have experienced joy in a variety of ways — when I proposed to my wife on a snowy Christmas eve; when I witnessed the birth of our five children; when I received a promotion in my work; when I used to hit a good golf shot; when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl (years ago); when I have had the courage to share about God’s grace and the saving power of Jesus Christ; and when I do something for someone else instead of myself.

The world tends to look at joy in terms of pleasure, good fortune and success.  Even Webster defines joy by using these terms.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that if we obey his commands we will remain in his love and our joy will be complete.  He says we should follow his example. 

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s command and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11)

Remaining in Jesus’ love and obeying his commands results in a joy that is complete.  It is ongoing.  It gives rise to a general state of happiness and well-being regardless of the circumstances.  It is a joy that survives setbacks, disappointments and even tragedies. 

Many years ago some people prayed with me at a Life in the Spirit program to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I drove home in a blinding snow storm on the curvy and hilly roads of northern Westchester County, NY.  I could barely see beyond the hood of my car.  Because I was so filled with joy from experiencing God’s presence in the Holy Spirit, that blizzard didn’t bother me one bit.

As Jesus suggests, it is God’s presence that is the source of our joy.  The more we are in his presence, the greater potential we have to experience that joy.  We can seek his presence through prayer, scripture, and the sacraments and in joining with other Christians in his name.

But perhaps the best way to experience God’s presence is simply to seek him at all times in our thoughts, in our work, in our time with others, in whatever we are doing.  If our life is a constant dialog with the person of Jesus, we will be in his presence, and our joy will be complete. 

“You fill me with joy in your presence.”      

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We All Want Purpose

Do you have purpose in your life?  I have never met anyone who didn’t want to have purpose and meaning in their life.  Rick Warren sold over 32 million copies of his book, Purpose Driven Life, indicating a fairly high level of interest in the subject.

Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work.” (John 4:34) Jesus seemed to be equating food with purpose.  In a way, food is similar to purpose in that they both keep us going and sustain us.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, reveals his quandary over whether he would prefer to be with Christ through death in his prison cell, or remain in this life and continue to proclaim Christ to the Philippians.  He concludes that the Philippians need his continued presence and encouragement more.  “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil. 1:21-26)

As Christians, the Church teaches us that we are called to come to know God, to love him and to serve him in this life, so that we can be with him after this life and into eternity.  How this plays out in real life varies with each individual, for God creates each one of us with unique characteristics, skills and purpose.

For me, I came to know God through the Christian heritage of my parents, as well as through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ forty years ago this month.  Early in my adult life my primary purpose was to love and support my wife and children and advance in my career as an attorney for a large international oil company as far as possible.

I didn’t give much thought as to whether those two objectives were a purpose God had given me.  

My wife and I practiced our Catholic faith by going to church every Sunday, raising our children with Christian values and getting involved in a few church activities.  It wasn’t until we experienced a renewal of our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit in our mid-30’s that I began to look at the purpose for my life in the context of God’s will for me.  Through that renewal experience, I began to have a desire to spend time with God each day in prayer and come to know him more fully by regularly reading scripture. 

God enlarged my perspective of purpose.  Loving and serving my family, and serving my employer and others were part of his desire for me.  I came to understand that God wants us to be good stewards of the time, talents, responsibilities and people he entrusts to our care.  Just as he commanded Peter at the end of John’s Gospel to feed and take care of his sheep, he commands us to love and take care of the people he puts in our lives.  He wants us to help lead them to Him and where he wants them to be.

“And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)