If you thought I ran out of friendly twins, no such luck! Let me introduce you to two more. For those who have not followed this column in the past few weeks we've met the twins compassion and empathy, honesty and trust, and last week unity and peace. Today, as we continue our journey through Advent to Christmas, I want you to meet joy and hope.
Joy and hope are fraternal twins. In previous Mass prayers, at the prayer following the Our Father we prayed: "We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ." Some priests, myself included - perhaps I started the trend - prayed "in hope and joy." Are they two different gifts like bacon and eggs or are they mixed together and unable to be separated like macaroni and cheese? Let's consider them as distinct. If for no other reason it gives me something to teach and you something to learn!
In the current, revised liturgy, we pray: "... As we await the blessed hope and coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ." I argue why liturgists need to qualify hope. Never get into a debate with liturgists, you will not win.
"Joy is different from happiness, laughter, or comedy." This was spoken in a most eloquent way by a Rabbi at the funeral of a friend of mine, the comedian Shelley Berman. Shelley, you'll remember, was a real kvetch, the curmudgeon comedian who made us laugh through his review of life's everyday experiences. I told Rabbi Mordechai how much I appreciated and learned from his talk and how afraid I was to give mine following his. Frankly, I told him I was surprised that a Jew knew so much about joy! - we both laughed aloud, thank God. I wish I had his talk, it was a gem on joy.
Joy lasts, joy goes deep into the human being. Joy is a gift of God that soothes the soul, the deepest part of us that tells us who we are and how we fit in with everything. Consider this from G. B. Shaw: "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."
Hope, he's difficult. Hope is sometimes thought of as a wish or a strong desire as in "I hope the teacher does not give the promised test" or "I hope I find a free parking space at Anaheim Stadium." Used this way, hope often disappoints.
Hope is a positive charism and is joined with joy for that reason. People with hope are like the "little engine that could." They are generally optimistic. In this way hope leads to perseverance and endurance.
Hope is one of the three theological virtues; faith, hope, and love. St. Paul urges Christians to trust and be confident with who they are and what will happen to those who "put on the likeness of Christ." Check Pauls' letters, especially Romans 8:25 "And hoping for what we cannot see means awaiting it with patient endurance."
Jesus is the hope of the ages. Come once again, Oh Promised Hope, Come O Desire of the Nations! This Advent be attentive to the way we pray for and sing about joy and hope. May this Advent and this coming Christmas bring you lasting joy and real hope. May that joy and hope be the reassurance that your life is guided by God's bright light.
Along with Advent reading and meditating, listen to the classical hymns and carols and lessons of Advent. Radio KUSC, FM 91.5 is a good source. It will bring joy! Trust me, I'm being honest. Trust and honesty are also twins!
Fa La La La La, La La La La