Dr. Joby Cyriac asks us to think often about the moments of joy Jesus would have celebrated, as we are called to celebrate life.

We have just celebrated the birth of our Lord, having prepared for his arrival with Advent. That tiny crib lit our homes and our hearts with its divine simplicity and joy. The little infant in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes comes to us with a peaceful, beaming face, as a true bundle of joy.

Every visualisation of the Nativity scene sends us vibes of celebration. But how do we usually picture the Lord in our mind’s eye? Isn’t it usually as Christ with his hands stretched out in love and nailed to the cross? Certainly, in moments of pain, the suffering Lord on the cross is a source of comfort and an experience of being deeply understood. However, it may be worthwhile to see the smiling face of Jesus too, at least once in a while. A scene from the now famous web series, where Jesus is seen dancing with his friends is a rare depiction of the jovial side of our Lord. It is desirable that we embrace this face of our Lord too – one who celebrates with his friends and disciples, one who likes to party, surrounded by peals of laughter, one who revels in lighter moments of sharing and companionship, rubbing shoulders with those on the peripheries of the society.

Holding on to the hand of Jesus who celebrated his life and his mission in the world, how can we celebrate our life too – life with family, friends, nature, workplace, community, and the like? How can we practise joyful living, at every stage of our life? How can we do it both during periods of plenty and in times of aridity?

 A blueprint for a joyful life

The term ‘celebration’ can rake up images of unruly merriment and festivities. While we do need watchful eyes and discerning minds when we celebrate life, how do we decide upon boundaries and when to let go? Surely, we have to tune our ears to the voice of the Lord for that.

In the eight opening lines of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares ‘the Beatitudes’, which spell out the guidelines of joyful living, of celebrating life. Through them he reveals the goal of human existence, the culmination of every human effort, by responding to our natural desire for happiness God placed in our hearts. We are in this world now, to love and to serve him and to come to paradise. CCC explains 1717: ‘They (the Beatitudes) express the vocation of the faithful associated with the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they shed light on the action and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations’.

In order to celebrate our lives experiencing the Kingdom of God and entering into the joy of the Lord, we have to make decisive moral choices. We have to purify our hearts of our base natures and seek the love of God above all else. Our celebration must be rooted in the understanding that ‘true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in fame or power, or in any human achievement… but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love’. The beatitudes give us the blueprint for Christian living.

Celebrating relationships

Life, we say, is a celebration of relationships. The experience of love – of giving and receiving love – is the essence of celebrating relationships. First and foremost is my relationship with the Lord. The essence of being a Christian is to be able to say from the heart, ‘Jesus loves me’. And it is this experience of God’s love that gives us joy, balance and peace.

Then comes my relationship with others. How can I celebrate the ways I relate to another person? Martin Buber speaks about two ways of relating. ‘I-thou’ and ‘I-it’. The former where we relate to each other as authentic beings, without judgement. The encounter is characterised by mutuality, directness, and presence. When I meet the other as ‘thou’, the encounter becomes a celebration of a relationship in which both become fully human. The uniqueness and individuality of the other person is experienced and at the same time, a common humanness is also shared.

Being loved and accepted for my own sake, not for my achievements, positions, talent or performances, gives me security, safety and contentment. It is this unconditional giving and accepting that makes ‘I-thou’ relation a celebration. But in this world of sick hurry, over-taxed minds, and divided aims we do miss out on this. Sadly, many a time, smartphones keep people absurdly out of touch, and the much-hailed connectivity doesn’t do much to bridge distances between people. Celebrating relationships as ‘I-thou’ is easier said than done. We need to creatively find ways to do that with our spouses, children, youth, friends, parents, grandparents, the sick, homeless, the refugees and those in prison. We need to strategise, because every encounter with another person is a vocation to love.

Different folks have different ways of celebrating – different ways of experiencing this foretaste of divine joy. For one person it could be silence, while for another, giving, and for a third, gratitude. A patient listening to your aged parent, a moment to kneel down and hug your waiting child, a touch of physical intimacy with your spouse, hand-holding a classmate through a challenging academic task, a random act of kindness and empathy to a needy soul, the first step taken to mend a relationship, a readiness to forgive without strings attached, a gift expecting no returns – all these can create exquisite moments of celebration for a discerning person.

Even when the fig trees do not blossom

Can a person celebrate amidst trials of life? For a Christian, even a tragedy is a matter of celebration; in fact, Christian tragedy is a contradictory term. How can it be so? This is where pain and suffering take the divine meaning which St. Alphonsa celebrated. Suffering can be salvific. It is the awareness of the uplifting summer within the depth of a heartbreaking winter that helps you rejoice in the Lord, even when the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines.

Work is love made visible’

Our workplaces can become places of celebration when we realise that the duties of each moment are shadows behind which hides divine operation. Clarity of purpose precedes celebration of an act. Why am I doing this? What purpose drives me in this task? What is my destination? What is the product and how is the process? Finding answers to these questions can connect us to the fountainhead of joy, turning work into ‘love made visible’.

Mother Teresa wrote these words to Naveen Chawla, who authored her biography, ‘All you do, all you write, do it all for the glory of God and the good of all people. Let your book be love for God in action’. She was a woman who made love fruitful in service to the poor and needy. Hers was a celebration of faith and love marked by an unwavering clarity of purpose. Like her, we are also called to partake in the mission of Jesus.

The sacrament of the present moment

Many a time, celebration of life goes hand in hand with the experience of living in the present. Dwelling excessively in our past or focusing obsessively about the future can rob us of ‘now’, making us incapable of discovering the sacrament of the present moment. ‘To escape the distrust caused by regret for the past or fear about the future this is the rule to follow’, says Jean Caussade: ‘Leave the past to the infinite mercy of God, the future to his providence, give the present wholly to his love by being faithful to his Grace’ – a perfect recipe for a life of celebration.

The ceremony of innocence

For whom is celebration? Can any attribute of age or gender, class or position, wealth or power decide the quality of joyful living in a person? It’s the ceremony of innocence – the childlike love and openness, the interdependence and vulnerability – that qualifies you to be a celebrant of life.

Taking inspiration from the blessed infant in the manger and the smiling face of Jesus, let us celebrate our life, relationships and work, with an innocence and humility that rejoices in the Lord even in times of trials. May the Magnificat of Mother Mary ring in our ears every day of our lives.

Pointers to Teens, Youth & Families

Anitha Babu

Families

  • Celebrate anniversaries and birthdays or day-outs where family and friends come together and nurture relationships.
  • Celebrate one-to-one moments between husband-wife, father-child, mother-child and siblings, which deepens these bonds.
  • Celebrate memories. Purposefully create memories that can be cherished forever. Get-togethers, picnics, family chit-chats, eating-out, working together, shopping times.
  • Get actively involved in socially responsible activities and celebrate your social role.
  • Celebrate spirituality as a family. Attend Holy Mass, confession and other sacraments together. Attend a retreat together at least once in a year and replenish the spiritual strength.
  • Have a spiritual mentor to guide and help you celebrate inner peace and happiness.

Teens and Youth

  • Celebrate your passion: travelling, designing, vlogging, cooking, farming…Go for it and do what you enjoy.
  • Celebrate successes. Build on your talents and dream big. Create your best self.
  • Celebrate friendship. Have friends. A lot of them. Play.
  • Celebrate wellness. Be health conscious, try out new styles in dressing, look good and confident, care for oneself, work for a good career and be financially independent.
  • Get actively involved in social media. Use it wisely and for good.
  • Celebrate your relationship with God. Remember your creator in the days of your youth. Practice enthusiasm, forgiveness and spiritual union.
  • Develop your identity – self, ethnic, religious and human. Be responsible, reliable and decisive.
  • Volunteer – contribute to society. Feel self-esteem, honour and dignity.


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