By Fr. Mike Johnson, OFM
When I was in Bolivia a few months back, I was sitting in a café with a friend, talking about God knows what. At one point during the conversation I noticed that I was doing all the talking — and was quite animated about it — and he was just sitting there, smiling.
When I asked ’”What are you smiling about?’’ he answered: “You. You seem really happy, almost joyful.”
Walking home afterwards, I wrestled with what my friend had said, and decided that he was right. Joy was what I was feeling. But the question was, why?
After prayer the next morning, I reflected on what joy had looked like the previous ten days. The following is a partial list:
- Joy is getting into a water balloon fight during Carnival and rediscovering why Jesus urged us to be childlike.
- Joy is being in line on Ash Wednesday and having the ritual and the music move me to tears.
- Joy is sitting down and sharing three meals in a day with the same people and to laugh at table.
- Joy is going to the movies, leaving its selection to others, and then laughing hysterically through a film I never would have chosen.
- Joy is realizing that someone dropped everything to help me and I never even had to ask.
- Joy is watching Animal Planet with the brothers and rediscovering a sense of wonder and awe about creation and the Creator.
- Joy is seeing the punk teenager with the spiky hair, with too many piercings to count, walking arm-in-arm with his mother, shattering my stereotypes.
- Joy is visiting an old friend, now in her 80’s, and seeing the joy in her eyes that she was remembered.
- Joy is prayer surrounded by 20 other brothers at 6:30 a.m., praying in a language that speaks to the heart.
- Joy is having three little children follow me down a dirt road and summon up the courage to ask for my blessing.
- Joy is having a brother invite me on a hike, and, while listening to him speak eloquently about his understanding of Franciscan humility, minority and ministry, being reminded of why I came to this life.
- Joy is having a passing bus splash muddy water on my newly hand-washed pants and laughing about it.
- Joy is sharing a glass a wine with an old friend and have him pour out his hopes and dreams for his children.
- Joy is discovering that, in spite of my brokenness, God somehow used to me to make a difference in the lives of others.
As I look over this list two months later, three things occurred to me.
First, that each one still brings a smile to my face as I recall each moment and see how, in their own way, each was a blessing from God.
Second, that there is nothing extraordinary on this list. Or maybe everything is. In either event, if I only took the time to reflect, similar opportunities are offered to me daily.
Third, that by unreflectively skating across the surface of life, by rushing from one thing to another, I can so easily miss out on that sense of blessedness, on that sense of joy, that each day has to offer.
If I have eyes that see, if I take the time to reflect, it is there. Or more accurately it is here.
Today I decided to begin a new “joy” list.
Fr. Mike Johnson, OFM, is pastor of St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md. The above reflection was posted on April 29, 2013, on his blog, Reflections of a Franciscan Gardener, which focuses on finding the presence of God in everyday life.