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Healing Line

Healing Line

Greater Joy Than We Have Ever Known

by Francis MacNutt
Spring 1997

Joy is the explosive emotion we associate with Jesus rising up out from the tomb and bursting the bonds of death.

Mary Magdalene cried out with joy when she finally recognized Jesus after first mistaking him for a gardener when she went to mourn and weep at Jesus' tomb.

But so often Christians find it easier to experience the "mourning and weeping in this vale of tears" than to feel resurrection joy. Not that we are not meant to weep; in the Middle Ages people walking by a church where they heard Dominican friars weeping asked what the noise was all about and were told they were weeping for the sins of the world. It would be a great improvement for most of us, if we had that same sense of tragedy about the evil in the world. After all Jesus wept when he gazed out at Jerusalem and thought about all the prophets who had been murdered there. (The traditional site is still called "Jesus Flevit," which means in Latin, "Jesus wept.")

But our joy as Christians even in this life, should be still stronger than the sadness. The philosopher Nietzsche, when addressing a group of nuns, is supposed to have said, "If you have joy in your hearts, would you please inform your faces." And our dear friend, Rev. Tommy Tyson, once did a study on the early Christian martyrs, and told me that the sign they were truly Christian was that they faced death with a song on their lips. One of the famous early accounts is of the martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicity and their companions (in Carthage in 203 A. D.). Felicity was eight months pregnant and so eager was she to be killed by the beasts and to meet the Lord with all her companions that they prayed for her baby to be born prematurely in prison. And her baby, a girl, was born. Her delivery was painful, and her jailer, hearing her groan, asked how she could face a far worse ordeal with the man–eating beasts of the arena. She answered: "My sufferings here are my own; there another will be in me, suffering for me, as I for him." Hearing this, the jailer was converted.

It seems clear that such unusual joy comes from an experienced union with Jesus. All Christians are meant to believe in Jesus Christ but even more than belief, they are meant to know Jesus as friend, as well as Lord.

Knowing him gives us joy. This intimate knowing may be what Nietzsche's nuns most needed. In the famous prophecy concerning New Testament times in Jeremiah 31 :31, the prophet predicts, "In those days they will all know me, the least as well as the greatest."

Coming back to Tommy Tyson, his spiritual hero was Rufus Moseley, a kind of Protestant Francis of Assisi, from Georgia. One night Rufus was praying while contemplating Jesus upon the cross. While deep in prayer he felt his arms being lifted up until he was in the form of a cross, too. But when this was happening, he started weeping with joy. So surprised was Rufus that he asked Jesus why he should be so joyful while praying about Jesus' sufferings. Jesus responded with what Rufus later called "The Reverse Side of the Cross":

He had suffered upon a cross of pain
to put us upon a cross of joy.
That he had died feeling abandoned by his Father,
that we might know his Father's love.
That he had died giving up his spirit,
that we might be filled with his Holy Spirit.

Judith, Rachel, David and I pray that during this Easter time, you might experience the joy of knowing the love of God brought to you through his Holy Spirit! We send you our Jove and blessings.

— Francis MacNutt

The One who dies for us — who was raised to lift for us ! — is in the presence of Cod at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! — Romans 8:34–35, The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Spring 1997 Issue