Wherefrom is our Joy?
Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.”
Some time ago I presided at a marriage where I met a brilliant and assertive advocate. He had opinions on religion, philosophy, life, the law and virtually on any other subject that was raised. Like George Bush “I have opinions of my own, strong opinions; but I don't always agree with them.”
The lawyer, as an agnostic, was particularly scornful of what he termed, “religious abnegation.” This weakness was, he contended, based on laziness of the mind that he considered as the source of all evil in the world. “It is only with knowledge; more and more knowledge; and the application of our reason that the problems of this world can be overcome.” He mused on what a lifetime of a thousand years would give him in the opportunity to assimilate all the knowledge of our world. The assimilation of all this knowledge would give him wisdom and lead him to the universal Truth and ultimate happiness.
As an international expert of the Law, he claimed that human reason as the only and ultimate means to truth and happiness. His particular field of Law is termed Casuistry which works from the premise that moral knowledge is essentially particular; to be built up and judged by logic on a case to case basis rather than on universal principals. A slight contradiction for somebody seeking universal truth! But I think perhaps most of us would fail the test of coherence and universality of our opinions, our “knowledge”.
As our discussions developed through the evening, I was particularly struck by deep sadness that seemed to emanate from this wizened scholar. Yes, there was much knowledge, but knowledge that had led to isolation; a loneliness built on the very maxim of the enlightenment, “I think therefore I am.” It is all about “me, myself and I”.
The Irish writer John McGovern tells the story of another great scholar while he was living at Trinity College in Dublin. A woman came in one day a week to clean and within an hour everything was shining and in its proper place. He writes that she was a charming woman and often they talked. She told him she had waited each morning for the bus at 6 o'clock with the other cleaners to Trinity so that she was able to be home in time to cook the family dinner.
She spoke of the professor who had previously occupied these rooms. I cleaned his room for 14 years and not once did he say a word to me. In the beginning I used to say “good morning” but after a while I didn't say anything more. They tell me that he was the most brilliant professor in the university, but I say he was the loneliest.
Jesus teaches us that He is the Truth, as the eternal and unchanging Word of God that has chosen to be one with God’s creation. The Truth that is always relationship, One with Another. A relationship that calls us out of our solitude and towards Love that is also eternal and unchanging. These are our universals as Catholics, eternal and unchanging.
These are the universals of our faith that give us a place to stand; an understanding that gives us our hope and is the source of our peace and joy that the world cannot give. Each one of us have burdens we are called to carry, but it is in the sharing of these with love as the energy that they are made bearable.
“Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
These are the beautiful words of the Gospel that invite us into a relationship with God’s Word Incarnated. God wants to share our journeys as well as our burdens.
Lord, we pray today for those who feel called to undertake some burden; to accept death or illness; to forgive an enemy; to let a loved one go; to involve themselves in a struggle for justice. Help them to trust you, who know how they labour and are overburdened, that you are gentle and humble of heart, and they will find the yoke easy and the burden light.