Monks and Joy
“A monk does not laugh. A monk is to be serious and sober at all times.” I’m not sure those are the exact words, but it was something like that.
I was having dinner at a monastery and one of the brothers was reading from the “Rule” of their order (a common tradition in monastic communities). I remember that the brothers looked at each other and at me (I was the only guest that night) and let out a very slight chuckle. They obviously wanted to let me know that they didn’t take that one too seriously.
While I would certainly never want to follow a rule of life averse to laughter, I do recognize that there is a danger. Laughter can be vulgar, rude or at another’s expense. But does our faith really require no levity?
Obviously, I don’t think so. In the Gospel lesson for Sunday, Jesus tells the disciples “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11, click here to read the full passage)
Commandments are not to make us sad or test our obedience. They are to bring us JOY (and sometimes to protect us from the price of sin). Jesus does not simply mean for us to laugh all the time. When he speaks of joy, he means that deep rooted sense of satisfaction with in life that we all desire and that, sadly, eludes so many.
I know it sounds trite to say, “just turn to Jesus!” Especially in a world filled with so many competing promises for happiness. And some have used it as a simplistic answer to every situation. But I am convinced that to profoundly follow the way of Jesus, to obey His commends and trust His Holy Spirit to work in our lives is, in fact, the only road to lasting and dependable joy.
It is not a promise of constant laughter or a life without challenges, loss and disappointment. But it is a promise of a life of joy beyond the pain!
This column appeared in the May 6, 2018 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete edition.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.