Our Between Heaven and Mirth Twitter Book Club continues today with a new excerpt, below. Join the conversation by reading the excerpt and tweeting a response, or a question for author Father Jim Martin – and don’t forget to include the#patheosmirth hashtag! You can follow the whole Twitter conversation here: https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23patheosmirth
Between Heaven and Mirth, by James Martin, SJ
Excerpt 8: Does being joyful mean that I’m supposed to be happy all the time? (pp. 171-172)
No. This is something I would like to underline, since it is a concept that is particularly important to understand in a book on joy. Sadness is a natural response to pain, suffering, and tragedy. It is human, natural, and even, in a way, desirable; sadness in response to a tragic event shows that you are emotionally alive. If you weren’t sad from time to time, you would be something less than human. The Jesuit priest and clinical psychologist William A. Barry echoes this: “If you’re not saddened by certain things, you’re not normal—for example, when a loved one dies or in response to natural disasters. Sadness is part of life.”
Although we’ve discussed, for example, the possibility that Jesus smiled and laughed, the New Testament tells us outright—without our having to read between the lines—that Jesus broke down in tears after the death of one of his friends. When Lazarus, the brother of his friends Mary and Martha, died after a brief illness, Jesus traveled to the tomb, and, in one of the simplest and shortest Gospel verses, we are told, “Jesus began to weep.” Jesus’s weeping is seen as proof of his compassion, of his humanity. “See how he loved him!” say those in the crowd. If Jesus was sad, surely we can be sad.
The notion that you must be cheerful at all times in order to demonstrate belief in God is as ridiculous as it is common. “Get out of the tomb!” one otherwise well-meaning friend said to me when I shared my sadness over my father’s death. “Aren’t you a believer?” (She was referring to the idea that I was focusing on death rather than resurrection.) But even the saints, those avatars of belief, were downhearted from time to time. Like Jesus, they were occasionally sad because they were human.
What do you think ? Do you feel pressure to be happy all the time as a person of faith? Is unhappiness a sign of less joy? Tweet your thoughts, and include the #patheosmirth hashtag to join the Twitter conversation!
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