Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cardinal Ratzinger on Joy

from Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium:

Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don't have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice.

I can understand that. There is a moral attitude at work here. But this attitude is nonetheless wrong. The loss of joy does not make the world better - and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good. Joy, then, does not break with solidarity. When it is the right kind of joy, when it is not egotistic, when it comes from the perception of the good, then it wants to communicate itself, and it gets passed on. In this connection, it always strikes me that in the poor neighborhoods of, say, South America, one sees many more laughing happy people than among us. Obviously, despite all their misery, they still have the perception of the good to which they cling and in which they can find encouragement and strength.

In this sense we have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately only faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and to be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.
This really speaks to me! It also fits in with some other things I've been thinking about lately - particularly about the concept of how we can be a "manifestation of God's Love" to others (ala Deus Caritas Est). This seems to be a particularly crucial role for parents to play in the lives of their children. And it's partly about joy, right?

I've also been thinking and talking with people lately (particularly at our teen discussion group this week, which I haven't had a chance to blog about yet) about the importance of being willing to rejoice in what is good and not just overwhelm ourselves with being critical about all the problems out there. Yes, you have to recognize what is bad, but it takes a certain amount of humility - and littleness - to appreciate the good. In our discussion group we talked about how there are a lot of movies being made today that aren't perfectly good in all their particulars, but that have some REALLY worthy elements - things worth rejoicing about. We also talked about how being able to appreciate these might be good practice for appreciating what is good in others - something that can be built upon.

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