Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Joy of Others

Henri Nouwen writes in his Our Greatest Gift: “Two of the greatest joys are the joy of being different from others and the joy of being the same as others.”
We may have tasted the first joy in our excelling in sports, in being a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or in receiving the acclaim of classmates as their chosen leader of the class—the joy, admittedly, in the “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like that publican ... " Lk 18:11-12.

The second joy-- perhaps --at a Youth Rally where we put arms around strangers, smile widely into the faces of those we didn’t know or join a crowd of marchers against School of the Americas, where human beings,  from across the Americas, raise a strong voice against killing and teaching how to kill.

When a resounding hymn of praise—whether of God or of country—lifts us out of our isolation into an experience of being part of a crowd, we are one of them and they of us. We are connected; we know ourselves as joyful in our common humanity. Our differences melt away. It makes no difference whether we are priest or woman, saint or sinner. We are one! We are God’s People. We are exhilarated by the sense of being brothers and sisters.

Death—as well-- is one such common human act! “Die we must, the hour we know not” is everyone’s call.  We, at our monastery, experience this truth regularly. In fact, we had eight deaths in eight weeks recently. St. Benedict’s words to “keep death daily before our eyes” has been made concrete in eight wake services and eight funerals over these eight weeks. Indeed, in this Advent period while we are awaiting Christ’s coming to us, these eight sisters were returning to the One in whom is all their joy, the second kind: the joy of being the same as others! Dare we say, then, that it is death that can lead us into solidarity with everyone?

Renee Domeier, OSB

Photo: Karen Streveler, OSB. Sister Lucy Miller with one of her young clients at Learning in Style

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