The Gospel. St. John xvi. 16.
JESUS said to his disciples, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your Joy no man taketh from you.
I have to admit that I really love this part of St. John’s Gospel. And on the surface, this might seem odd, since Jesus is obviously talking to his disciples about his impending Death (which we have already experienced during Holy Week). But, more appropriately to the season of Eastertide, he is also talking about his impending Resurrection. And most meaningfully for us, he is talking about our ultimate fate; the state of Joy.
Death, as we all know, is a necessary part of life. Indeed, we cannot know one without the other. We know that as surely as a child is born into this world, he or she is surely fated to die one day. It is inevitable. But we Christians have been given a certain insight, a certain knowledge, that death is not the “end” of life. It is, rather, the true “beginning” of life. It is the beginning of understanding. It is the beginning of Love. It is the beginning of Joy.
C.S. Lewis describes Joy as an “unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction”. This is not to be confused with happiness or pleasure; in fact, according to Lewis, the only thing Joy has in common with them is that anyone who has experienced this emotion will want it again and again.
Of course, these are just the high-faluttin musings of an over-educated Oxford Dean, right? How does any of this relate to us here in Ohio? In other words, “what is Joy”? I’m glad you asked!
First of all, I don’t really like Lewis’s use of the term “unsatisfied desire”. Not that I blame him, because if we do become satisfied, we can, as a result, become complacent; comfortable; unmotivated. What would be the point of seeking that feeling again if once was good enough?
Still though, I differ with C.S. Lewis in that I see Joy as that ultimately satisfied desire! That thought or feeling that this is what it’s really all about; This is the best feeling in the world; This is something so great, so wonderful, so Joyful, that you want to feel it again, and again, and again. You don’t ever want it to end. And when it does end, or even just subside for a moment, you would do anything to get it back again.
If I’m making it sound like a feeling of desperation, well, that’s one thing on which I can agree with C.S Lewis. He also describes Joy as being a particular kind of unhappiness or grief, though oddly enough, one that we actually want. I think that this is because once you have glimpsed Joy, had a peek at what is right, what is best, what is most wonderful, how could you not mourn until you get to feel that again?
So what is Joy? I know that I have told you this story before, but I think it bears repeating; a number of years ago, Catherine and I were at a fast-food restaurant, actually sitting and eating as opposed to going through the drive-through; and we saw a young child, barely more than a toddler, going to the counter with his older brother. This child had no idea why he was there; he was just dutifully and obediently following his older brother.
Then, the young man working the counter handed the child an ice cream cone. With the cone in his hand, the child turned and practically ran to show his mother what he had just been given. For a moment, I thought that the look on his face was indescribable. But then, Catherine said to me, “look Dan, That is Joy”.
Think about that. This young child walked obediently in the path in which he was directed, and he received Joy! What an example for us! “And a child shall lead them”, indeed!
Walking obediently in the way. That is the path to Joy. That is the path to that feeling, that existence that is so great, so wonderful, that we will never want it to end; in fact, we will want it, always. That is the path that leads to the Presence of God’s Eternal Love; and, of course, being in His Presence is the ultimate definition of Joy.
And yet, as C.S. Lewis again points out, Joy is never in our power; it is totally and completely in God’s. And He has shown to us the path through the life, Death, and Resurrection of His Son; the path that Jesus Christ provided takes us right up to the counter where God gives us the reward for our obedience; Joy.
Mind you, I’m not trying to compare Jesus to that older brother; for in his own way, that older brother was also walking obediently in the path. He was leading his younger brother in the way that leads to Joy. We in the Anglican Catholic Church have also been fortunate to have had a number of “older brothers” who have, in their own way, shown us the path.
I have been making plans for the upcoming Diocesan Synod, which will be held just two weeks from now. During my preparations, I was reminded of two of these “older brothers” whom we lost just 10 years ago. Rex Hume was among the first to stand up and declare his dedication to the Catholic Faith by walking away from heresy and founding St. Edward’s Anglican Catholic Church in Indianapolis. But Rex didn’t stop there. He also got involved in the business of the Church.
Rex was the long time Steward of the Laity for the Diocese of the Midwest; a true leader. Remember, this is an elected position. He was chosen for, and humbly accepted the responsibility to lead the laity through all the various issues and troubles that could have torn a Church apart. I had the honor of watching Rex operate during one Synod. He conducted the business with grace, humor, and humility. But above all, Rex stood firm in the Faith, always. What a great “big brother”, leading us to the counter.
Bishop James Orin Mote was, to my knowledge, the first Episcopal priest to likewise walk away from heresy. As a result, he was booted out of his house and forced to live in a basement. All he did from there, of course, was to start St. Mary’s parish in Denver, Colorado. And as we all know, he then was one of the four men consecrated by Bishop Albert Chambers, thereby guaranteeing that the Anglican Catholic Episcopate would continue.
Bishop Mote would also lead by example; participating in protests against abortion and getting arrested for his efforts. He would remain loyal to the ACC in spite of all the fractures and political wrangling that took place in those early years. He would talk to anybody who had ears about his experiences; not as bragging, but simply and humbly as a recounting of what it means and what happens when you are a Christian. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when Bishop Mote told me, “I like you; you’re a good dirty Catholic”! And I think to myself, what a great big brother he was.
Likewise, we here at St. James have been privileged to have had the example of such “older brothers”. In my short time as Rector here I have learned of the names of Peterson, Irwin, Linderme, Spies, and Lilly; whose service helped to preserve the Catholic Faith in this parish; and I think to myself, what great “big brothers” they were.
The example of their lives has showed us the path to the place where we will ultimately receive our Joy. Further, their lives showed us how we too must be “big brothers”. The legacy that Bishop Mote and Rex Hume and all of our forbearers at St. James left behind is this; that it is our responsibility not only to walk obediently on that path, but to lead others as well.
Whether you’re clergy or laity, every Christian has that responsibility. And by doing that, you are not only bringing others to Joy, but yourself as well. We learn this from the example of the lives of those named Mote, Hume, Peterson, Irwin, Linderme, Spies, and Lilly; and the Path that they followed; the path that leads to that ultimately satisfied desire; the path that leads to Eternal Joy through the Life, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you