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Crisis Contemplation
Crisis Contemplation

Crisis Contemplation and Joy

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Crisis Contemplation

Crisis Contemplation and Joy
Thursday, July 29, 2021

In my Franciscan tradition, joy comes from an inner realization of true experiential union with God (or Reality, Consciousness, and Life itself!). This realization descends upon us at ever deeper levels as we walk our faith journey. Authentic joy, however, takes place through our pain—not under it, to the right, left, or over it. There is much covering up, escaping, or denying our suffering in unhealthy religion. God calls us, instead, to the whole paschal mystery—passion, death, and resurrection. CAC teacher Barbara Holmes knows that such joy is for both the individual and the community, providing sustaining, life-giving power for marginalized people:

Our current circumstances require resilience and the steadfast belief that joy is a healing inner event and a spiritual practice. . . . BIPOC folks [1] who remember the ways of the elders have seen it in action. Performance of joy while the wounds are still being inflicted is not a display of otherworldly strength. It is an act of faith that God will not give us more than we can bear. . . .

Personal and communal joy require authenticity. We have to stop performing the blackness that whiteness created, the stereotypes and secret-keeping. We have to sing ourselves sane and dance ourselves free. Each act of public joy is one step closer to that risky leap toward transcendence. . . .

Performing joy offers healing from our addictive engagement with domination systems. We are not required to fight for our reality; we can just live it. . . . We are being invited to awaken to our true nature as spirit beings, energy sharers, and prophets of potential. The joy spoken of in Holy Scripture is accessible, but also has a certain “beyondness” to it: The world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. As we hear from Jesus in John 16:22: “So you have pain now; but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” [2]

Sikh human rights activist and writer Valarie Kaur understands the healing power of joy, even amidst what she describes as the necessary “labors” of life:

Joy is possible even amid great labors—the labor of dying, the labor of birthing, and the labors between. We cannot force it. But when we create moments to breathe between labor pains, and surrender our senses to the present moment, notice the colors and light and feeling of being alive, here, together, joy comes more easily. It is a felt sense in our bodies. In the face of horrors visited upon our world daily, in the struggle to protect our loved ones, choosing to let in joy is a revolutionary act. Joy returns us to everything good and beautiful and worth fighting for. It gives us energy for the long labor. . . . Joy is the gift of love: it makes the labor an end in itself. I believe laboring in joy is the meaning of life. [3]

[1] The acronym BIPOC refers to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

[2] Barbara A. Holmes, Crisis Contemplation: Healing the Global Village (CAC Publishing: 2021), 117­­, 119.

[3] Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World: 2020), 307.

Story from Our Community:
In the early 1990s I met myself in a very elaborate lucid dream. Upon shaking my hand, I said, “I Am You.” I woke knowing that my personal identity is identical to everyone else’s. What if oneness means “I Am You”? The “I” with which God sees me is the same “I” with which “I” look for God. This is the mysticism of love of neighbor. From that dream on I treated my wife, family, friends, and patients as if “I Am You,” and learned that our core self-interests were as identical as our identity. —Roger K.

Image credit: Oliver, River Steps (detail), 2014, photograph, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.
Image inspiration: Water on stairs brings up questions that the angle of this photo cannot answer. Are these waters rising or receding? We are navigating in this place of tension, in the eye of the hurricane, unsure if where we stand will flood. Water and Stone: Where is safety? Where is danger?
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