Someone once said that joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. I go through a normal day making various efforts to keep You present to me. Some days are better than others. Sometimes I feel Your presence in my morning or evening prayers – but more often not. Sometimes I experience Your presence at Mass – but not always. Often I feel Your presence in meditation or in these letters, or in centering prayer – but not infallibly. The fact that I try to conjure Your presence every hour when my watch beeps does not mean that I am always successful – sometimes I just ignore the beep. But I do experience feelings of joy now and then – and sometimes great joy. Am I missing the most positive sense of Your presence in failing to look for You there? There is a feeling of excitement that goes with joy and, interestingly, a feeling of serenity and security.
It is part of the human condition that in times of joy the excitement, serenity, and security are more conducive to experiencing Your presence than times of sadness, which may bring depression, anxiety and worry. Your presence itself can be the cause of joy and, thus, magnify itself in us. In times of joy we are more apt to think of the goodness of God than in bleaker times when that thought does not come so easily even thought it’s equally true that You are there. It is more human to equate good feelings with God’s hand than to think about His presence when all is dark.
But what about “infallible?” I think joy is an infallible sign of Your presence in this sense: because of sin in our lives, the faults, the failings, the shame and guilt that we are so much aware of, snatches of joy come as intermittent flickers. The fallibility of our recognizing Your presence is a product of the fallibility of our own humanity. There is a sense of this fallibility in the joy we experience here. Joy becomes an infallible sign of You after we shed the shackles of our human life. Infallible joy is heaven.