Examen on Joy

Place yourself in the presence of the Lord and pray for enlightenment. Relax. Breathe deeply. Run quickly over the past few hours or days, allowing your real feelings to surface about the events that have been part of your life, the feelings you’ve buried so that you could make it through the day.

Pay attention to the way in which the Lord has been present to you. Where have you felt drawn to the Lord or moved to joy? Where have you met the Lord when you felt afraid … misunderstood … tempted … relieved … happy? Turn to the Lord with gratitude.

Choose one incident or reaction that stands out particularly for you at this time and which is still not settled for you. Recall to mind the details of the incident and its context, the people involved, and how you feel about it.

Read in the Bible Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples (John 21:1-14)

Allow Peter to lead you to the joy of encountering Jesus.

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. (John 21:1-14)

This Gospel scene begins with a quite distressing scenario. The disciples are still mourning Jesus’ death when Simon Peter decides that he wants to go fishing to try to cope. Some of the other disciples go with him, surely because none of them wants to be alone. And, in their dark period of mourning, not only are they without their Lord, but they cannot even catch fish.

Read the passage again, paying particular attention to what happens when Simon Peter hears that it is the Lord on the shore. In a single moment, their total darkness is transformed into total light, as they bring in an enormous catch of fish and their hope is restored. Allow the joy of the scene to enter into your heart.

The Christian life is filled with joy because it is filled with Christ’s love. Of course, this does not mean that the Christian life is not difficult, but instead that the struggles and challenges that Christians face are joined to the joy of Christ’s presence. When Peter saw the Lord, he jumped into the water and swam to greet him, filled with joy and excitement. Everything seems unimportant compared to the joy of being in the presence of Jesus.

As you reflect upon the incident that you chose for your examen, pay attention to where God is present. Allow this knowledge of his presence to fill you with joy. What would it be like to savor the joy of ordinary moments in your day? How can you share this joy of knowing God’s love with others?

God’s great love for you is made manifest in the experiences of your life. As you make this examen, the Lord is right now moving your heart toward joy.

Spend some time talking over with the Lord what you are learning and experiencing. With simplicity express your sorrow for any lack of joy in your life and your gratitude for any movements you sense toward greater joy through God’s grace.

Identify one step toward becoming a more joyful person that you want to take going forward, a step that is actually possible for you. Pray for the grace to be a more joyful person.

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