Joy is the by-product of a very rich and deep faith, a faith that brings you to the vestibule of trust.
The first thing I would say is cling to God, and that has to do with prayer.
Prayer is speaking to God, but essentially, prayer is giving yourself to God. If you give yourself to God, you begin to understand that true prayer is in the will, not in the feelings, not in the intellect.
A lot of times we have a mind that is filled with anxiety, fear, or anger, so emotionally we are not disposed to pray.
We feel, therefore; that until we clear the emotions, and then get in the right mood for prayer, we're not really praying well. Or you may sit down to pray to God and find that you're distracted with all kinds of thoughts, inappropriate thoughts, and come away feeling that you're not praying well, that the Lord mustn't be listening to you, that he must be very displeased with you. A
ll of this is nonsense precisely because pure prayer is in the will.
It is in the will to give yourself to God, and you can come to that without any emotional mood swing.
It's not a question of your affections. It's a question of whether or not you choose to give yourself to God.
The will says "yes" or "no". It has only one function: to say "yes" or "no".
If you can say "Yes, Lord I give myself to you with all my confused thoughts, with all my problems, my emotional upheaval, I come to you. You're able to say it. It's not the best prayer that you've been able to pray, or it may not be as good as you think you could do on any given day but it's the best you can do right now.
So, there's a certain peace that can come to you from the knowledge that you are praying well.
Your prayer is in the will to give yourself to God. And you do that, don't you? You're doing that all the time. You do pray well. You are close to the Lord. He loves you very much. You don't have to win his attention.
He's as close to you as your own heartbeat. And so, it's possible to trust his love, even in prayer, and come to the conclusion that you are praying well. Without bragging about it, it's the knowledge that you're in communion with God without any fear, perhaps, of not pleasing him as well as you would like.
Think of others.
I really don't have to tell you to think of others. I think you're doing that all the time. If you've raised children or if you've been in a position of responsibility, helping other people, I think that your life has been altruistic whether you realize it or not.
When the lawyers came to Jesus and asked, "Who is my neighbor?" He said, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
And he told the story of the Good Samaritan. The man was taken by robbers and beaten, and the priest came along and passed him by, and the Israelite came along and passed him by.
But the Samaritan, who was an outcast, and a man who was defiled and not allowed in the temple, stopped and picked him up, and he bathed his wounds. And then Jesus said, "Who do you think is the compassionate one?"
The man said, "Of course, the one who took care of his wounds." Jesus said, "Go, and do likewise."
Jesus said, "Go and do."
He didn't say, faith alone.
Faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, but when you adhere to the Lord and his words, you know that you're called to love your neighbor.
So, I would say that if there's one fruit that can come out of this little talk I'm giving, maybe there's somebody home or anywhere, one of your friends, perhaps, a family member, lonely, lost, sick, abandoned.
Make a little resolution that you'll get in touch. Make a phone call or write a letter or do something that would lift their spirits. That would be a very nice gesture, and I think something that you would like to do yourself.
Don't put yourself down.
How do you go about that? If you don't put yourself down, you begin to learn to live in the present moment.
You know, the past can be crushing for some people. So I would say, don't let the past wear you down.
There may be things you did in the past which are things you're not proud of, and they may haunt you. But the Lord is merciful. Unless you trust the past to God's mercy, you're going to be destroying your joy in the present moment.
Whatever it is that's in the past history of your life, try to think that you have a steel door that you can pull down to keep it from invading your life. So that you can live in the present moment and be liberated.
And the same is true of the future.
The psychologists tell us that ninety percent of the things we worry about never happen. Whether you're going to be sick or how you're going to handle the future if you do get sick, or will there be a depression or will there be a war or how will this or that work out, you know, those anxieties, if you bring them into the present moment they ruin the day.
There's no chance for joy. So, a spirit of joy requires a certain discipline of mind. You have to control your thoughts. Bring that steel door down and try as best you can to be free to smell the roses.
Look at the birds, enjoy the sun, smell the fresh air.
Life is a gift. It's yours to enjoy.
When you reach that kind of maturity, loving your neighbor, loving yourself well, then a new sense comes over you. And that is the idea that you can actually participate in God's love and be an instrument of his love, so that your hands will enable him to express his love through you.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring light.
And where there is sadness, Lord, let me bring Your joy.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born into eternal life.
And remember, the greatest honor that you can give to Almighty God is to live joyfully because of the knowledge of his love.