Sunday, 24 May 2015

Joy, the Holy Spirit, and Our Lady. Pentecost 2015

I'm going to speak about three things today: joy (because it is the mark of a true disciple), the Holy Spirit (because it's Pentecost), and Our Lady (because it's the month of May, and because two of her traditional titles are ‘Spouse of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘Cause of our Joy’).

I've been reading about this in Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on Joy, Gaudete in Domino, which Pope Francis frequently comments on.
Paul VI’s central and simple point is this: that a person has joy when he or she knows that they are loved.
And, more particularly, he notes (GID n.iii) that joy was something that Jesus Christ had in its fullness. Jesus knew Himself to be, as the Father’s voice repeatedly declared from heaven, knew Himself to be His “Son, the Beloved”(Mk 1:11; 9:7)
This love, and joy, that was continually in Jesus, is also one of the principle things that the Lord prayed would be “complete in them” (Jn 17:13) when He prayed for His disciples on the night before He died.

But what CAUSES this joy to be in us? (GID n.iii) It is the loving PRESENCE of the Father and the Son, which is brought about in us by the action and presence of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, which the Lord promised to sent to His disciples the same night He prayed that His joy might be complete in them. And so it's no coincidence that His prayer that His joy might be complete in them was in the same section praying that He and the Father might “dwell” in us (Jn 17:23). It is this loving presence in us, the love of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that is what makes us know love (Jn 17:26) and experience joy.

What of Our Lady? Well, Paul VI notes that she is the perfect human example of spiritual joy (GID n.iv). More than any human person in all of human history she is the “dwelling place of God”, a fit tabernacle for the Holy Spirit. I’ve preached previous years about her unique relationship with the Holy Spirit: she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and burst forth into praise in the Magnificat. In that prayer of the Magnificat she recognised and sang the praises of God’s mighty deeds –and it's worth noting that recognising the deeds of the Lord is a powerful way of recognising the loving activity of God, and thus knowing of His love -His love in the deeds of Scripture and His love for me in particular. Finally, how is she the “Cause of our Joy”? By causing the birth of Christ, by interceding to make us sons in the Son, and by calling down the presence of her Spouse the Holy Spirit into our heart too.

Let me close by noting, as Paul VI does too, that in all I have been describing I am talking of a joy that is a SPIRITUAL joy, beyond earthly pleasures (GID n.i). Paul VI notes that such earthly pleasures are real. Like the pleasure of a pint of real ale, as I am experiencing again now that Lent is over, this is a real pleasure. But it is not the same type of SPIRITUAL joy that is caused by knowing oneself to be loved, and especially, knowing oneself to have that deepest love of being loved by God.
There is an important consequence of this: it means that such a spiritual joy can still exist within us when we are experiencing physical pain, or even emotional sorrow. So, even at the foot of the Cross, even as her heart was in agony seeing her son suffer, because she still had faith in the Father’s love and goodness she still had, at a deepest level, spiritual joy.

What, very simply, does this mean for us?
I cannot have joy by my own power, rather, it is spiritual gift. It comes from God.
But it is a gift He offers me. A gift that the Lord Jesus came from heaven to earth to grant us.
And it is granted by the outpouring of His Spirit into our hearts, a Spirit that causes that indwelling of the Father, Son, and Spirit such that we know ourselves to be loved, and rejoice in being loved.
And if we turn to Our Lady, in this month of May, she will pray and obtain that great gift for us.

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