School of Leaders – March 2016

Finding Joy

The experience of joy, a Metanoia if you will, on the recent Men’s and Women’s Cursillo Weekends was somewhat diminished by our return to reality.  Being “One in Christ” is constantly challenged when the general attitude of people seems to be, “what’s in it for me, what is the very least I can do, and if it feels good do it”?

We are easily distracted.  After all, God has made some really great stuff for our enjoyment.  Even He found everything He made to be “Very Good,” back in the Book of Genesis 1:31.  The problem is that all too often the pleasures of this world have our full attention.  For most people, there’s no room for anything else.  The things of God are not anywhere near the top of most people’s lists.  It is easy to become blind to His presence as a result of worldly influences that cause us to become victims of our own devices.

In Matthew Kelly’s CD, “Becoming The Best Version of Yourself,” he tells the story of a teenage boy who wants a $94,000 sports car for his 18th birthday.  When his father gives him a small rectangular package, he is sure he will find the keys to his new car.  Instead, he discovers a book, the Bible!  Disgusted, he goes to his room, throws it against the wall, slams his door in anger and goes to bed without talking to anyone.  The next day his dad died of a massive heart attack and the boy is devastated.  He again goes to his room, lays on his bed, and weeps nonstop.  Then he sees the Bible, picks it up, and reads the following inscription inside the front cover, “Dear Michael, within these pages, you will find the answers to all life’s questions and the secrets to all life’s success.  With love on your 18th birthday, Dad.”  He wept some more and flipped through the pages hoping to find some words of comfort.  He then discovered that his father had placed a bookmark in the Bible.  He removed it and found that it was a check for $94,000.  In the story, the father was able to give his son everything from a material standpoint, but more importantly, he wanted his son to place the Word of God at the center of his life.

How often are we like the son in the story?  Disappointed instead of joyful for what we have been given?  How much is the sheer business of our life and the ways of the world preventing us from living the life God is calling us to live?  To experience the fullness of joy in His presence?

We all want things to happen in our lives – we have desires, hopes and dreams.  Many of us spend several years of our lives chasing those dreams, hoping they will come true.  We hear it said many times that God wants our hopes and dreams to come true.  And that He will give us the desires of our heart.  But so often, years go by and we feel empty and unfulfilled because so much of our thought has been that things, people, accomplishments, or pleasures of this world will bring us the joy we desire.  Instead, we are left wanting more.  At some point, we finally realize that the joy we are seeking does not come from worldly things.  Just as a person’s hunger indicates the body’s need for food, our longing for more points to the fact that there must be more than this unfulfilling life.

The interesting thing is that God wants all of us to have complete joy.  He created us for it.  Jesus came so that we could be immersed in complete joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy might be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

There’s a secret to making sure God gives us the desires of our heart.  It isn’t some kind of magic prayer or a special type of fasting; it isn’t about attending the right church or singing the right praise and worship songs; and it isn’t about having the right amounts of money – it’s all about our hearts.

As we seek God and build a relationship with him, the desires of our hearts will begin to change.  We will begin to long for the things that God wants in our lives, not just the worldly things that we used to chase.  As this happens, we will begin to see things fall into place for us, and we will have the desires of our hearts.

St. Augustine tells us, “Our hearts were made for you, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.”

The key is to remember that God is not the means to an end.  He is the end.  He is who we should be seeking after continually.  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Mt 6:33

As a Christian, we are invited to follow Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  As we study Christ, we are convinced that without His Way, there is no going; without His Truth, there is no knowing, and without His Life, there is no real living.

As Bishop Robert Barron tells us in a recent Lenten Perspective, “Instead of seeing money, success, fame, power, and pleasure as ultimate goods, see them as nothing compared to the grace of God. Instead of living as though worldly success were ultimate, live as though the things of this world don’t matter at all.  In a word, change your mind, and see things from the perspective of God.”

Experience joy in all you do by placing, Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

Some final thoughts:  “You don’t have to leave behind all the things of this world to put God first, but you must put God first in all the things of this world.” Author Unknown

“If you can’t find joy in the path you are on and what you are working toward, how do you expect to find joy once you get there?”  Author Unknown

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