One of the easiest funeral sermons I’ve delivered was an Alexian resident named Joy Divine. (Real name!) It’s not that I knew her well but her name was the key to our celebration of her life. (Can’t do much with Jagodensky…oh well.)
Happiness is a temporary, passing emotion that can quickly change when a car runs a red light. Joy, however, is truly divine. It’s lasting because it doesn’t begin or end with us. That red-light-driver may cushion our joy but it only lasts a short time.
We can all think of examples when joy has been tested like “gold in fire,” according to the Book of Wisdom. There may be singes but never a burnout. Too bad St. Paul didn’t make his inventory a foursome adding joy to faith, hope, and love. I think joy would have completed his list. Joy wraps herself tightly around each of St. Paul’s virtues. (And, yes, with a red bow on top!) The other three are fragile without joy’s enfolding.
Last year’s parish theme was “joy.” Entries were few but I understand that. It’s hard to describe. And being “good Catholics,” we’re never to brag about ourselves. Yet, I guarantee you that joy is not only divinely sent to us but it’s as contagious as our darn virus, mask, or no mask. You can’t help but feel joy when another person just beams full of it. That contagion has a long shelf life when you recall your visit with that person and the exchanges the next day and the following week. A parishioner stopped me after Mass today to say what a great day he had yesterday. His great-grandaughter was baptized. I’m still thinking about his joy late this afternoon.
When Ascension Healthcare eliminated my Alexian Village position several people asked me if it affected my faith. I thought it curious because it never entered my mind. How can a company, Catholic or not, affect a divine gift? It was not their’s to give and certainly not their’s to take away. Rather, I believe my sensitivity and compassion, toward myself and others, grew a couple of inches taller.
Our parish theme of joy last year is truly complimented this year with “our beautiful Catholic faith’s” theme. Like the song sings, “You can’t have one without the other.”