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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Take the Joyful Challenge

January 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Joy, Patti Armstrong

Lately, when I check the next-day weather report, I half-expect fire and brimstone to be in the forecast. It seems that it should be “time’s up” for the world’s silliness aka. spiritual degradation to the nth degree.

I cannot help but wonder why God is holding back. He is so very patient with us. I’m not doing nearly as well in that department. Catholics don’t believe in the rapture so it’s not like I’m wishing for the earth to swallow up the bad people while the good ones stand on a hill and rise into the heavens.

I know that we are all in this together–sheep, goats and every animal in between. It’s just so disheartening that many are behaving like animals. Yeah, I know that such a bold statement leaves me vulnerable to finger pointing at the big, bad, judgmental, bigot, but things have changed since my childhood. We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.  I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, we are all sinners but my blueprint for how to get to heaven is being trampled on and ridiculed.

One day, being Christian was a good thing and the next, suddenly we are labeled a danger to our fellow man. We are the good guys; the ones following Jesus. That used to be a good thing–at least in this country–but now people hate us for it.

When I was a little girl and heard about the lion’s dens, prisons, and persecution for Christians, I could tell myself that I would be willing to be a martyr if I lived back then without having to follow-through on it. But now, opportunity for Christian courage abounds. But one thing you may not have considered is that joy is part of the deal.

Take the martyrs. Which ones shook their fists and yelled, “You’re going to be sorry for this!” as they faced their executioners?  Not a one. Thomas More, Lord Chancellor under King Henry VIII, was sentenced to death for not publicly supporting the King’s divorce and remarriage outside the Church.  He was light-hearted and ended his life with a joke, telling the axman “Please do not chop my beard in two; it has not committed treason.”

Not all saints joked their way to their executions, but all were known as rejoicing in the Lord. That is where we can find our own joy, in the Lord.  There are no glum saints.

While being joyful is a stretch on some days, it seems that the secret of the saints’ composure under fire and ability to find joy is that they had the peace of Christ in their hearts.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”  (John 14:27).

It is a good starting point because a troubled heart cannot be a joyful one. And people, who are at peace exude a quiet joy.

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12)

If instead of peace and joy, Christians show anger and fear, it would not seem that we have the truth. But we do and the best way to spread it is with joy.

for post on take the joyful challengeMother Teresa once said: “Joy is prayer – Joy is strength – Joy is love – Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.

So, I offer the joyful challenge; to be joyful and spread the Good News to the entire world through your example of what it means to be a Christian.

 

Art: Porträt des Thomas Morus, 1527, Hans Holbein the Younger, Frick Collection, NYC, The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. PD-US; Mother Teresa of Calcuta, portrait painting by Robert Pérez Palou, 1 January 1994 Wikimedia Commons

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About Patti Maguire Armstrong

Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press's Amazing Grace Series. Her newest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families, a collection of stories to inspire family love, and Dear God, I Don't Get It and the sequel, Dear God, You Can't Be Serious, children's fiction that feeds the soul through a fun and exciting story. Patti's Blog http://www.pattimaguirearmstrong.com. Facebook. Twitter.

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  • Nancy Brockhoff

    I had to give thanks for this. You expressed my sentiments exactly … How long Lord? …. Thank you for reminding & challenging us to live with such joy. A great way to start this year.

  • JH47

    Thank you, Patti! This is just the message I needed to hear this morning as during prayer I was feeling the heavy sorrow at having all our pro-life initiatives ignored or rejected at the parish level. I felt grace invade my soul as I read your words, and the joy of suffering in union with Christ for the salvation of souls flooded my heart.

  • DianeVa

    Amen! JOY is my word for this new year..to remove any bitterness or anger or impatience and to allow JOY to be seen by others within me. That’s how we will attract others to Jesus! I am not good at it…but I desire it!

    • $1650412

      Amen! Me too, DianeVa.

  • evninibomus

    Patti-
    I have been thinking these same thoughts for a few days now, leading up to and including the day’s just past the New Year. You expressed my anxieties, fears, thoughts and resolve to be more joyful in the practice of my faith perfectly. I’ll take this as a sign that this is God’s plan for me this year.

  • Beautiful!! Thank you!

  • Patti Maguire Armstrong

    Thanks for all your joyful comments. I need to reflect on this message myself. Knowing it and doing it are two different things. I strive for joy daily, and pick myself up and start again when I miss the mark. Have a blessed and joyful New Year!

  • jcmeg56

    Powerful! Jeremiah told the small remnant of people who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem not to sorrow at the reading of the law when they were at long last allowed to return from captivity and resume proper worship, because “The Joy of the Lord is your strength.” God does not want us angry and sorrowing over the fact that we are but a remnant of what we once were. Rather we should rejoice that the walls are being rebuilt and we are free to gather for worship and to read from our Holy Books and pray, the reality of hostile neighbors notwithstanding. Thank you for a potent reminder.

  • jmstalk

    Nice article. I went to bed full of fear of the future last night after reading a financial expert warn of collapse and roaming bands of starving people looking to eat us. This is no joke. I was literally worried sick. This article directly answers to that fear.

    I once read something written by someone who claimed that it came from Jesus. The gist of it was that He hasn’t acted definitively yet because WE are not ready. God is giving his own children time to prepare their souls for what is to come.

  • “One day, being Christian was a good thing and the next, suddenly we are labeled a danger to our fellow man. We are the good guys; the ones following Jesus. That used to be a good thing–at least in this country—but now people hate us for it.”

    Beautiful, Patti. This shows we are faithfully following Him, our sinfulness notwithstanding. “If they hate you, remember they hated Me first…”……The Divine God-Man told us so.

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