6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).
The adaptability of joy: this makes great sense from a developmental point of view, psychologically and spiritually. The joy of a child is clearly different from the joy of an older person. Is it more than just exuberance versus self-containment?
Spiritually, too–something I’m sure that Pope Francis is aware of as a Jesuit. The fresh joy of a new believer is eventually tempered by the experiences of sin, doubt, and misfortune. Many believers fall into traps in one or more of these areas. The no-Easter Catholics may well suffer from misfortune–the assumption that the world is totally God-forsaken and nothing of merit is to be found on this mortal plane.
The citation of Lamentations 3 is interesting: it is used in the funeral Lectionary, and I’d say it’s one of the more popular choices for families and mourners. Joy seems essential for a healthy believer, but not always the exuberant joy we associate with celebration and triumph. Do we possess the quiet joy that waits in hope? A good question for these days of Advent.