“He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).
When I was nine, I was taken in for hearing tests. My teacher, Mrs. Palmer, must have told my parents that I wasn’t paying attention in class and wondered if the problem was with my ears.
Turned out that my hearing was fine, I just preferred my daydreams to what was going on in class.
In sixth grade I tried to perfect the skill of staring into the distance as my eyes faced the blackboard, my mind galaxies away. I thought I could fool Miss DeMars into thinking I was paying attention to the migration patterns of ancient peoples or the decisive battle in some war…just like the last war, and the war before that.
I had made myself deaf and blind to what I needed to learn in favor of a fantasy world of my own making. (Daydreaming is still one of my favorite things—in its time and place!)
This came to mind last Wednesday as I read the words of Paul from 2 Corinthians about “unbelievers whose minds the god of this world has blinded, to stop them seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
Chilling to read, especially since as a young adult, I was one of those unbelievers. I had stopped up the eyes and ears of my heart to the Word and light of God. I didn’t want to give up the goodies of sin in favor of the joys of holiness—just as I had stopped up my ears and eyes to learning in grade school.
Only those striving for holiness know what I’m talking about—there is simply no comparison between the darkness of sin and the light of life in Christ. It’s like a person dying of thirst choosing to drink salt water instead of fresh water. Salt water (sin) just brings more thirst with no lasting satisfaction and a lot of anxiety. Fresh water (virtue) is a delight that gets to the root of the thirst while hydrating and strengthening every cell in the body, bringing deep joy and confidence.
Paul laments those who refuse fresh water out of habit, who are unwilling to put down their glass of salt water to try the only cure for their ennui that will last.
Here’s hope, though—if we will bring the joy of Christ to everything we do (I mean the true inner joy at Christ’s resurrection that no sadness can take away), our joy in the hope of our own resurrection will lift the sunglasses and unstop the ears of those who are seeing only the shiny objects in the present world (and not the God who made them) and hearing only the siren song of the prince of this world.
Many of us have experienced this transformation—and have seen how much the joyful example of someone encouraged us to put down what was making us sick and reach for the pure water of God’s love and forgiveness—which is always on tap.
I love this quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “Joy is not simply a matter of temperament. In the service of God and souls, it is always hard to be joyful—all the more reason why we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts. Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love, joy is a net of love by which we catch souls.”
Scroll down to the Comment box and share your tools for staying joyful, even on your not-so-good days!