Monday, May 25, 2015

In a Spirit of Joy

By Melanie Rigney

In a generous spirit pay homage to the Lord, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. (Sirach 35:10-11)

“Gather my faithful ones before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” And the heavens proclaim his justice; for God himself is the judge. (Psalm 50:5-6)

Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mark: 10:28-30)

Joyful, joyful we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, op’ning to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away; giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! (“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” lyrics by Henry J. van Dyke)

For a long time, I was in an online writing group. We each had a nickname, and the one they selected for me was Joy. In fact, Melanie Joy is the pen name for the main character in a novel one of my friends is working on now. Pretty cool.

That said, joy can get pretty difficult for me and I suspect many of you as we all go about bringing souls to the kingdom. For me, it’s often not the big stuff; somehow, the enormity of the loss or pending loss of a loved one by death or illness or separation can be so incomprehensible that there is no alternative other than to turn it over to the Lord. No, for me anyway, it’s the small stuff that makes me whine and complain: The first reader who just kept going and deprived me of the gift of proclaiming the second reading. People who do the best they can, but simply aren’t able to carry a full workload, meaning more for me to do. The friend who’s going through some bad stuff and asks for a reasonable amount of my time, but it’s more than I want to give. Whine, whine, whine. Complain, complain, complain. The joy of service evaporates in the reality of the minutiae. Maybe the devil really is in the detail.

Or maybe the answer is in Jesus’s response to Peter in today’s Gospel reading. Like Peter, we may feel we’ve given up as much as we can—our time, our pride, our ego, our fears, all our little conceits. But perhaps true joy comes when we learn to stop thinking about what we do as sacrifice and begin to truly see and feel it as privilege. When we stop complaining—or, for that matter, looking for the noble intent behind someone else’s actions—and simply accept that persecutions accompany our earthly lives and focus instead on those instances when we are surrounded by love and peace here, we get a tiny glimpse of what eternal life may bring. Acceptance, faith, and love allow us to pay our tithes in a spirit of joy.

Don’t complain today, out loud or mentally, about anything. When you are tempted to do so, say a prayer instead.

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