Joy is something different from hope or gratitude or awe. Joy is the heart’s leap in the encounter with the one we love. We’ve all felt this kind of joy at some time or other. A parent greets a beloved child; lovers find one another and embrace; old friends reunite. And in that moment, we know joy. The loving recognition of the other fills the heart with gladness. Joy trembles on smiling lips and shines from the eyes. The spiritual gift of joy comes from the Holy Spirit. Yet it participates in these deep and true human experiences of joy—the loving encounters that lift care and make the heart sing.
If we come to Jesus looking for gifts, often we do indeed receive them. And we shall be glad, temporarily, as we receive them. But if it is Jesus himself whom we love, we can rejoice always because we are glad in him. This still leaves us with a problem however. How do we experience such a loving encounter with someone whom we cannot see, or hear, or touch? Whether hidden behind the veil of history, or enthroned in heavens above, Jesus can seem too far away to love, too distant to make my own heart sing.
Perhaps this is why prayer, imagination, and Eucharist are so important to discipleship. Pray. Believe. Love with a whole heart. Break the bread and share the cup with others who are likewise caught up in love, and faith, and prayer. And behold, he is near. To our joy, the One whom we love is with us.
(from today’s reflection in Give Us This Day)