Joy comes from being the hands, the face and the heart of Christ to others
Have you ever been asked, “What’s on your bucket list?”
For those not familiar with the phrase, it is a list of things that a person wants to do before he or she dies. For some, it’s a dream list of things that they may never get the opportunity to do. For others, it represents a program for living life to the fullest.
But, I would like to recommend a different type of bucket list for us to live by if we are to experience the joy our hearts truly seek. Instead of a list of things we would like to do for ourselves, let’s develop a list of things that we can do to help others.
Today, there is no shortage of motivational speakers, authors, and celebrities marketing their own brand of joy that they’ll share the secret for obtaining—all for a price of course. But these recipes for joy more often end up resembling a cat’s pursuit of the elusive laser dot that cat owners tease their pets with—just when you think you’ve captured it, it’s gone.
This is because our hearts are made for something far beyond just the enjoyments and successes of life. These might bring us pleasure or happiness, but not joy. For joy is not of the body or the mind, but is something that is both human and divine—it is Christ Jesus! And the joy of Christ is never meant for ourselves alone but must be shared if His joy is to grow in us.
Christ is both Gift and Giver, and in receiving the gift of Himself, particularly in the Eucharist, we in turn are called to become His givers. This is the reason why the Mass is named after the word for dismissal—missa—it is a command to go and to share what we have received.
Just as St. Joseph was instructed in a dream to give the name of Jesus to the child to be born of Mary, so, too, should our works of mercy that are first conceived of faith in our heart bear the name of Jesus in deed. Only then can we truly be the face, the hands, the voice, and the heart of Jesus and know the joy that is His. What a different world it would be if all our actions bore the name of Jesus!
What might be on our bucket list?
There are so many ways in which we can be the face, the hands, and the heart of Jesus. Pray about it and spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, asking, like St. Francis of Assisi prayed, to be an instrument of His peace. It might be in deciding to assist in a parish mission trip to a region in need, or in getting involved with groups such as the Ladies of Charity, St. Vincent de Paul Society, or with the Knights of Columbus. It can be simply by being a friend to someone we work with who is lonely or hurting in some way. It can be in visiting the elderly at a nursing home or getting involved in prison ministry. But above all, whatever you do for others, always ask for the grace of a giving heart.
Joy, then, is not something we receive and hold onto for ourselves, but something that grows to the degree we make a gift of it to others. So particularly with the start of Lent on Feb. 18, let us strive to be givers of the Gift we have first received. With the help of God’s grace, let us be daring, then, in making a bucket list of things we can do to help others.
One idea to consider adding to your bucket list is buying tickets for someone for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will both inspire your faith and entertain. On Saturday, April 18, from 7 to 9 p.m., New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Cardinal William Levada (Prefect Emeritus of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) will join Cardinal Justin Rigali for “A Conversation with the Cardinals” at the Historic Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville. I will be moderating the evening’s discussion, which will be preceded by prayer, Scripture readings, and songs from the Pope Benedict XVI Schola. Proceeds from this event will benefit the St. Mary’s Legacy Foundation Mobile Health Clinic. Tickets can be purchased on a first-come, first-served basis at www.tennesseetheatre.com. I also hope you can be a part of our historic celebration the following day, on Sunday, April 19, when we will break ground for our new Cathedral Church. May your bucket list bring you much joy in Christ!