Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Choose Joy, Not Cynicism

By Maria Sermersheim

Cynicism sucks the joy out of every moment in life. It seems an unwritten rule that to be respectable or intelligent, one must first possess the imperious glance of a skeptic. People bond over their complaints and derision for minor inconveniences; and most heartbreakingly, they refuse even to see the value of the beautiful little moments. From the beautiful sky to miniscule trials of patience to life-altering disasters, why should we choose more pain and injury when joy is always available to us? Why deprive ourselves of the goodness God offers us? Unfathomably, the logic of choosing to be happy is an unpopular concept. But living joyfully should be an undeniable result of the truths we profess in our Catholic faith.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati said, “The end for which we are created invites us to walk a road that is surely sown with a lot of thorns, but it is not sad; through even the sorrow, it is illuminated by joy.” What is this “end,” and how is it illuminated by joy? The Catechism tells us “heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness” (CCC 1024). Jesus invites us to sacrifice as he did so we can find our truest, fullest selves in him. We are created for heaven, destined for eternal communion with God.

Cynicism must be impossible when we recognize God’s ineffable love and mercy. Truly, if we understood the mysteries of Jesus’ Incarnation, Death and Resurrection, we would already enjoy the bliss of heaven and be incapable of anything but joy. As it is, we do not fully understand, and we are tempted to succumb to the negativity in our daily lives. But because we are aware that we do not understand, we should choose to live joyfully. We should look around ourselves with new eyes stripped of the residual cynicism of our peers and delight in the inexplicable love and beauty of God. The silliest and most insignificant moments are incredible opportunities to relish God’s love; sometimes, however, the disappointments and tragedies in life cause us to be bitter and blind to God’s grace. St. Francis of Assisi had an insightful perspective when he said,

“…if, when we knock at the convent gate, the porter should come angrily…then he refuses to open to us, and leaves us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger until nightfall, then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring…This is perfect joy.”

St. Francis recognized that the comforts of the present world are entirely unnecessary. We do not require pleasure, convenience, even encouragement or respect in order for life to be good; life is good because we exist, and we know we only exist because God loves us. No pain or suffering compares to the magnitude and intensity of the exceptional ecstasy of heaven. In every moment, be joyful because life is good; God loves you. What else matters?

(Hint: the answer is nothing!)