“Entering into God’s Objective Joy” Jn 16 (6/3/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
In our Gospel, on the evening before the Passion, Jesus says to his disciples, “each of you will be scattered to his own home.” More literally, the word home does not appear. It is simply idia. You will be scattered to your own, your own selves. Whereas Jesus says of himself, “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” Jesus is not scattered to his own self, to be alone with himself, rather he is always with the Father. His center is not his own self. His center is the Father. He is centered on the Father and not himself. Not self-centered but Father-centered.
This is the call for us too. Not to be scattered into our own selves but to be centered in God. To find our grounding not on the shifting sands of our own self, but to be grounded in the firm and solid rock of God. Jesus says, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.” “Peace in me” he says, that we might have peace in Jesus, not peace based on our own shaky self. And in this way we can have peace and joy. Jesus concludes by saying, “In the world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” We have a call here for a God-centered existence. This will be our true joy.
St Anselm has some profound things to say about our share in God’s joy. He looks at the line from the Gospel of Matthew about the faithful servant entering into the joy of his Master. He interprets it as us entering into God’s own joy. God’s joy enters into us but more than that it is we who enter into God’s own joy, God’s infinite and abundant joy.
Anselm says, “I have discovered a joy that is complete and more than complete. Indeed, when the heart is filled with that joy, the mind is filled with it, the soul is filled with it, the whole man is filled with it, yet joy beyond measure will remain. The whole of that joy, then, will not enter into those who rejoice, but those who rejoice will enter wholly into that joy” (Proslogion).
Anselm makes a profound point here. God possesses infinite joy. God himself is infinite joy. So as God’s joy enters into us, our limited capacity can receive only so much. However, the much deeper and profound reality is us entering into God’s joy, us entering into the ocean of God’s joy. “Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt 25:21).
We can put this another way by considering that God is infinite beauty and so he is a delight unto himself. The Father delights in the beauty of the Son. The Son delights in the beauty of the Father, and so forth. Delight belongs to God himself. So in contemplative love, that peaceful joy we experience is not an added affect, something belonging just to our subjective reaction to God. Rather that it belongs to God himself. This delight belongs to the mystery of God himself, and so our prayerful union with him is union with divine delight. In this exile, the divine delight can be rather subtle and hidden, but because of the reality that God is himself, we know joy will be a part of it. Don’t think so much as taking joy into yourself, subjectively. Rather, enter into the joy of your Master, enter into the objective reality of God’s own joy.
It’s an objective reality that rises above our subjective states. That’s how the martyrs could be joyful even in their tribulation, like the martyrs we celebrate today. As Charles Lwanga was being burned in the fire, he said, “You are burning me, but it is as if you are pouring water over my body.” Charles had so turned from himself to the Lord that he felt bathed in the water of the joy of the Lord; he had entered into the ocean of God’s objective joy.
How could he do this? Because he was bathed in the water of the Holy Spirit. St Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians apply here. Paul says, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1:6).
The affliction sometimes caused by the Word brings with it the joy of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit himself is joy objectively. And he has entered into us. May we enter more and more into Him, into the divine joy of God. With our continuing novena of Pentecost, may we turn more and more from our selves to enter into the joy of the Master. “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” Jesus says, and he has overcome our old, false selves as well, so we can find a new center in him. So we can be grounded not in our selves but in God. Enter into the joy of your Master!