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Joy

On the radio this morning, the DJs were talking about joy in the realm of the Christian experience.  "Joy" can be a tough one - we tend to think of it as overwhelming happiness - like how we'd feel if we won the lottery or someone gave us a new car for Christmas with a big ribbon wrapped around it.

But joy is different than happiness, as happiness depends on circumstances, and joy is a choice. I thought this little snippet from Fr. John Hardon, SJ, was instructive:

True joy is the result of having these desires satisfied. But notice, and the word is only those desires satisfied which are truly good. What then is truly good which, once we get it and possess it, we are happy? Your desire corresponds with what God wants. That’s why one of the greatest blessings for the United States would be if the psychiatric profession closed shop. I know, there are some still sane and God fearing psychiatrists, but their number is very small. Happiness does not consist in desiring or acquiring what we want but what God wants. And remember, God does not exist, God does not exist to satisfy our wants, we exist to satisfy the wants of God. And the wants in the word want is meaningless when applied, as we ordinarily use the word, to God. God does not want anything in the sense of need. In English the two words are practically synonyms. Am I clear? Is it what I want is what I need. Is that true? [No] That what I want is what I need? No. Can I want what I don’t need? You mothers with your children, do the children always want what you know they need? That’s why over the years, in taking medication, the label on some of the bottles ‘childproof’. But I’m told it’s almost impossible to manufacture a container which is childproof. Children will swallow anything swallowable and sometimes even things that are not swallowable. True joy then is a result of having those desires satisfied which then we desire what leads us to heaven. And then, by the way is the most fundamental meaning of the adjective, right. What is the right thing to do? That which leads to heaven. [Emphasis added.] And this is where, my own father in God, St. Ignatius, was so emphatic at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises that we daily examine our consciences and ask ourselves, for example during the past day, all the things that I have chosen to do, have they all been things that will lead me to heaven. If they’re not, I examine my conscience and then I tell myself now this afternoon for me is twice a day. Then I remove from my life things that I may find very pleasant but which faith and sound reason tell me would not lead me to my eternal destiny. So then finally we desire what leads to our destiny and God is the only One, the only One who can tell us what we really need.

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Crossing Guard

I saw you
today
as you guided
your little man across that busy street.

You were wearing some
big man boots
and
watching cars and lights.

Your little man had on
black sneakers and
a Mickey Mouse hat
that bounced
as he walked.

He wasn't watching nothing but
your big man boots
and
the white stripes of the crosswalk.

Just before
he got to the sidewalk again,
his step bounced a bit
- he hopped over
a spot where the asphalt broke.

You turned to look,
holding out a hand to
your little man.
Not rushed or angry,
just making sure
he got up
on that sidewalk.

Then you walked on,
in your big man boots,
face into a cold Michigan wind,
with the little man behind,
his hat bouncing.