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Take back joy

Of all the lines written and spoken about Christianity, the words of St. Athanasius always speak to me: “God became human so that humans could become God.”

From ancient times there has been a never-ending search for God. We know the names of some of the pagan gods – Thor (the god of war), Venus (the goddess of love) and so many others.

To be like the gods was to have their power and influence, the ability to control others and satisfy our own desires.

Yet, when the true God, in the person of Jesus, entered history, it was all so different. Yes, Jesus did use his power to calm storms and multiply loaves and fish. But the power of Jesus was always a power in the service of others.

Imagine a world without ego. Instead of boundaries between nations, what if there were bridges? Instead of spending billions of dollars on weapons to defend ourselves from those who would want to destroy or conquer us, suppose we could work together to conquer evil and conquer the universe?

Sadly, in communist countries and other nations ruled by dictators, the notion of God is the first thing targeted for elimination. Instead of seeing God in others, they seek to destroy any sign of God.

Yet, when I see dictators in the news, it always strikes me that none of them ever seem to be happy. The energy it takes to control others is also a way to destroy joy within themselves. Religion is not the opiate of the people as Karl Marx once asserted. God is the liberator of the people.

And the worst prisons we create are those within ourselves. To live life without God is to live life without a moral compass. I’ve seen various dictators indulge themselves in various pleasures that are no substitutes for joy.

The word joy can be a reminder of the three loves in our lives that will produce joy: love Jesus, love others, love yourself.

Loving Jesus is perhaps the easiest. Who could not love a God who would become human to suffer and die so that you and I could be freed from suffering and death?

Loving others is a bit more challenging. Sometimes others are not at their best. There are reasons why we have police and prisons. Others do not always act in loving ways. Some are best loved at a distance.

Loving ourselves can be the most challenging of all. Our society encourages us to indulge ourselves with various pleasures. But society doesn’t encourage us to do the things that will produce happiness – virtuous activities such as prayer, meditation and spiritual reading.

None of these are that complicated. 

Prayer: Talk to God as you would your best friend. Share your hopes and fears and loves and joys.

Meditation: Take a few moments now and then to practice the presence of God. Be aware that you are always in the presence of unconditional love.

Spiritual reading: Read anything that makes the joy and love of God real for you.

The world wants to steal our joy. God wants to give it back to us!

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