Ronan Scully of Self Help Africa
One of the goals I am going to be working on this year is to be more positive and joyful.
Our Lord in St. John's Gospel wants us to be joyful when he said,"These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). If we live our lives on edge because we are afraid of bad things happening, we miss out on all the Joy.
Other times we miss out on Joy because we are looking for it in extraordinary amazing special moments and ways and we forget that Joy can be enjoyed in the small everyday moments of life and especially if we try to live in the present moment. Joy, for such a small word, there’s a heck of a lot of power, hope and love in it. God wants the joy of his love to dwell with us and in us always. Joy takes time and it comes, I would say, as a by-product of living a grateful, loving and appreciative life, of having time and taking time to “smell the roses,” as we used to say. Joy needs time.
A nun friend of mine from an enclosed order gave me an insight recently about living a joy-filled life. "Take time, take at least some time each day, to do one thing at-a-time. Take time, take at least some time each day, if you are walking, just to walk. If you are looking to just look. If you are listening, just listen. If you are praying, just pray. If you are sipping your tea or watering your plants or petting your dog, do just that.
Do one thing at-a-time and give it your full attention, and do that as often as you can with everything that you do. Take the time and give your full attention to let the fragrances and aromas of life penetrate to the deepest part of your being, where they can be savoured, appreciated and fully enjoyed." I think we call this “being fully attentive and joyful in the present moment.” I don’t think it has so much to do with the pace of life as much as it does with the intentionality with which we live our life. It’s to presume that each moment is full of God’s real presence. Look for it; wait for it; savour it, appreciate it and be so grateful for it. Don’t just visit life; life needs time to be lived joyfully and abundantly.
We are all on this wild adventure we call life. There are twists and turns along the way, both good and bad, but as we walk on this journey, we are called to find joy and to dwell in joy as we journey on our journey of life. Finding joy when things are going well is easy, but finding joy when things are not going well is a challenge that faces each and every one of us. Of all the months of the year, January is by far the most challenging for so many reasons; but perhaps mostly because of the bleak feeling of emptiness and worry that it creates for so many, along with an unimaginable sense of loss and detachment.
Many are saying goodbye to loved-ones who had travelled home for Christmas if they were lucky to travel during our present restrictions because of the Coronavirus and are now returning to those faraway places where they are now living. We hug them, trying not to cry and fall apart, knowing we won't see them again for a long time. Many are mourning a sad Christmas because, for whatever reason, it just didn't feel like it should have been or maybe the Coronavirus took over the house for 10 days or more.
Maybe you didn't get to see your children. Maybe someone you love died in recent times and these last few weeks and days were just too much to bear without them to share the annual joy of the beginning of a New Year and happiness with. It can be easy to lose our sense of identity and our purpose during the first few weeks of the new year. For most, this feeling lifts with the arrival of Spring and its longer days and brighter mornings. Christmas then feels like a dim and distant memory. Life is full of difficult challenges, but there is no such thing as an impossible solution to the mental anguish and the soul-destroying torture caused by life's difficulties.
Perhaps this life has lost all of its joy for you right now. It hasn't. Trust me. Life has not lost all of its joy. Life itself never loses joy. It's just the period you are going through that feels joyless; but that's just a period, a space you find yourself in right now. Life is full of joy. It always has been and always will be. It's just that you mightn't be able to see that just now. But you will, if you wait, and if you hold on. You will. As my friend David used to say to me when I was feeling down or joyless, "This too will pass".
And so it will because everything changes and continues to change. We are constantly changing. It's the same with joy. Joylessness fades, while joy, hope and love renews itself and becomes stronger. So hold on. Each of us gets only one attempt to live this life. It's worth living it to its fullest. We don't get a second try. By giving up, you deprive yourself of finding your one true voice and your real strengths. I'm only asking you to hold on for today; because tomorrow will bring with it a renewed strength to help you through whatever challenges we might or might not come up against then. But that's tomorrow, not today. Focus right now on the fact that everything changes, feelings, pain, sadness - everything, and usually when you least expect it to. Remind yourself of how loved you are by the last person who smiled at you and who relies on the happiness you bring to them in order for them to feel how wonderful life is. Maybe right now you might not feel it, but you are the reason why other people feel that their lives are worthwhile - because of the happiness and the joy and love you bring to them. Remember to always love yourself, accept yourself, forgive yourself and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful and amazing things.
Joy starts with You.
Be the one who comforts, consoles and listens, and you will be comforted, consoled and heard. Be the one who loves and cares, and you will be loved and cared for️. Be the one who supports, helps and gives, and you will be supported and blessed. Be the one who encourages, and you will receive encouragement. Be the one who is kind and caring, and you will have kindness and care shown to you. Be the one who is considerate, and you will receive consideration. Be the one who nurtures and is good to nature and animals, and nature and animals in turn will be good to you.
Be the one who shows admiration and you will be admired. Be the one who values truth and respect, and you will be respected. Be the one who takes action for the good of others, and you will move life forward. Be the one that does good things for Our World, and our world will help you to achieve good things. Be the one who shows mercy and compassion, and you will have mercy and compassion shown to you. Be the one who prays and lights candles for others, and you will be heard and have your prayers answered. Be the one who shows courage, and you will overcome your fears. Be the one who is honest in all your dealings in life, and your life will be one of truth. Be the one who lends a helping hand, and many hands will help you when in need.
Be the one who lifts others up and higher, and your life will be rich. Be the one who brings and makes peace, and your world will have as its core peacefulness. Be the one who shows real forgiveness, and you will also be forgiven. Be the one filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, and there will be no end to the things for which you'll be thankful. Be the one who lives with joy, with hope, with courage, with love, with purpose, as your own light brightly shines. Be, in every moment the special and precious someone you are truly meant To Be. Being actively grateful to God on a daily basis improves my own joy, life, work, and relationships in remarkable ways, and also the lives of those around me. By “actively” being grateful to God I mean taking pause to note the beauty, joy, love, and abundance of life with which God showers me; to let that sink into my heart; and to share this with others, will bring real joy to our lives. Sharing one’s grateful heart of joy with others helps alleviate the general atmosphere of fear and anxiety that seems to permeate in sectors of our culture and society.
And in close personal relationships, with family and close friends, our gratitude to God fulfils us in ways that takes the pressure off our loved ones to fulfil us or make us happy. In other words, we are less “needy” when we allow ourselves to recognize how much we are loved and blessed by God.
Joy for me
Joy requires our saying “yes” to life, to the life we’ve been given, to the hand we’ve been dealt and to accept the life we have been given. It seems to me that joy requires a deep willingness to accept how little of our life is actually within our own control. It’s an acknowledgment and an acceptance that God will be God: that it is God’s world on God’s time and that we are God’s creatures and that God is at work according to God’s good pleasure.
Joy requires our saying yes to life, the life we live as individuals, as members of a family, as members of a community, as members of various working circles. Joy presumes our living with an intentionality to accept the good gifts of life that actually are there, not to live life in a state of rejection or resentment for what is not there or no longer there. Life brings arrivals and changes and departures, and that’s life, the changes and chances of life. For me I believe that if you want to find joy in this fast paced world of ours, then you have to make "compassion" a regular practice in your life.
Compassion for me is something you do, not just something you feel. It means to help a person in need, to rescue the poor, the downtrodden, the homeless, the abused, the abandoned, the orphaned, the unwanted and uncared for in our world. Compassion is a desire to relieve the suffering. Simply saying, “I feel your pain and suffering” is not compassion. Compassion is meeting the need and doing something about it, not just feeling it. Real compassion is love and joy plus action and service. So if you see a person without food, you give them food. Without water, you give them water. That is the joy of compassion, the joy of life.
Compassion is seeing a person who is lonely and bringing them comfort and companionship. So if I see a problem and think, 'Oh, that is so sad. That breaks my heart,' it might be pity. But if I say, “That is so sad. I am going to do something about it,” that is compassion and it brings real joy to our life. Compassion, for example, is doing more than simply applauding the charity work being done on our behalf by various charities both local, national and international and by many church groups and caring organisations. Compassion is more than making a financial contribution, it should also be giving a time contribution toward those efforts. It is actually doing something about it. “Blessed are the merciful,” Jesus said, “for they will be shown mercy.” The more positive, helpful, caring, kind and compassionate a person is, the more merciful and joyful they will be. And the more negative, unhelpful, uncaring and unkind a person is, the more harsh and critical they will be. What we need to realise is that if we know anything of God’s forgiveness and compassion in our lives, then we should forgive and be compassionate to others. Forgiven people are forgiving people.
Thomas Adams said, “He that demands compassion and joy, and shows none, ruins the bridge over which he himself is to pass.” Compassion requires you to treat people better than they deserve. Compassion drives you to show compassion to people you have good reason to ignore. Compassion leads you to care about people's pain even when these very people have caused you pain. Compassion requires forgiving those who have wronged you. Compassion insists that you seek reconciliation with those who have offended you. Just try being compassionate - it takes the strength of God to show compassion, trust me on that!! When we ask for God’s compassion, we are essentially asking him to relieve us of a heart that is in misery and pain.
And our hearts can be in a state of misery and pain not just from our mistakes and I know mine has been on many occasions, but also in misery and pain from the deep hurt caused by a broken relationship with a family member or friend, from the suffering of infertility, from the pain of a physical or mental illness, from losing a job, from being betrayed or abandoned, from the loss of a loved one, from spiritual or physical poverty, and so on. But as Pope Francis said recently, "Let us be renewed by God's mercy, joy and compassion, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love, joy and compassion to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, joy and compassion, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice, love, kindness, truth and peace flourish.
Thought for the week
As your thought for the week, we must reflect the light of Christ shining on a darkened world to give joy to those who are joyless. We must reflect the light of Christ shining on a world that is cynical, to be a sign of love and joy to those who have never known love and joy. We must rise up in joyful splendour, to give witness to the great light which has overwhelmed the darkness of our world and shows us the glory of a God who loves us so much that he became one of us, in order that we might even one breath at a time, one heartbeat at a time, become ever more and more like him, in order that we might no longer be afraid. In finishing say this beautiful prayer of joyful compassion which has become a favourite of mine this past year called "Prayer of Joyful Compassion" that I have by my bedside that I read to encourage me to do the best I can with the life I have and to live a life of love, joy, prayer and compassion towards myself and the people I come into contact with.
"Dear Heavenly Father, We confess: our lifestyles are too busy, our focus self-centred, and our world is consumed with fear, greed, and pride. Sometimes, Lord, we react to the pains of others with a flippant “who cares?” Yet, in our more receptive times, when Your Voice calls to our innermost beings, We know with absolute certainty two things we desperately need: To be loved…and to love. Lord, enlighten my mind and heart with truth, love, mercy, gratitude and joyful compassion. Give me the courage to follow you daily in faith, love, joy and hope. Make me aware of the needs of the people around me. Help me to be grateful for what I have and help those with so much less. Help me to be gentle towards every person I encounter today, in thought, word and deed. May I recognize that others are facing difficult circumstances which I know nothing about. Oh Lord, that others would encounter You when they meet me today!
Still my tongue and open my heart. Fill me with a spirit of forgiveness, joyful compassion and generosity. As it be Your will Lord, place the words in my mouth that others need to hear today. Lord, I thank You for caring for me, tending my hurts with Your inexhaustible joyful compassion. As we begin this new week together, renew my mind and my heart. Help me to share Your unfailing joyful compassion with all people, especially those with whom I live and work. Be with those whose hearts are broken, demoralised by life’s blows; those who mirror to us that unfairness and suffering is not lightened by flipant answers or avoidance, but is made bearable because of fellow travellers who truly do care, and show it. Walk with us, God. Our trek is not always easy, our vision shortsighted, our love and joy often hidden. May we seek the deeper places where our compassion, our joy reflect You, the God who is Love. Amen."
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