Joy and Love in 2012


What can we do? We can become a sign.
Whatever happens, become a sign of joy and a fountain of divine love.
–Bede Griffiths, OSB

It is the time of year when I begin thinking of fresh starts. Not so much about New Year’s resolutions because I discovered long ago that making a list of “shoulds” and “oughts” was a futile project that only left me feeling like a failure by about the third week in January. So now I turn my attention to reflecting on a way I want to be in the New Year—if I can achieve some clarity on who I am becoming then the doing usually follows.  That is why the above quotation caught my eye.

Bede Griffiths asks the question that so many of us ask every time we pick up (or click on) the newspaper. Merely glancing at the front page of The New York Times or The Austin American Statesman confronts me with fresh horrors on a daily basis—another suicide bombing in Iraq or Afghanistan; a homeless man dying from exposure to the cold on the very morning he was to receive the news that he was to move into an apartment in public housing; the Euro is failing and the jobless rate remains high. And then, of course, there is the special joy of 2012 being a presidential election year. It can be overwhelming, and I ask myself as I’m sure many of you do—“What can we do?”

Surely there are many things one can do—being an informed voter is one of them – but there is never enough doing to salve the wounds that are regularly presented to us.  So Griffiths wisely exhorts us not to do but to become—become who you really are. Awaken to the divinity within you and become it.  Thomas Merton said, “ As sons {and daughters} of God we are called to use our freedom to help God create His (sic) likeness in our own souls.”

The more we awaken to the divine image within us the more obviously we are a “sign of joy and a fountain of divine love.” I don’t know how to do this. I only know how to become it. And I become it not by doing more or striving harder. I become it by getting out of the way – letting go of my urgent need to control and be perfect. The Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron suggests, “Instead of looking for fruition, we could just try to stay with our open heart and open mind.” This openness is what allows divine love to flow through us as water flows through a fountain.

I am always and already a sign of joy and divine love; when I stop my frantic doing and my inordinate busyness, you may actually be able to read this sign. You will easily recognize it for it is a sign written on your own heart as well.