Joy. So often it comes from happy memories of past events or the pleasant dreams of future plans, but what about the present? When we only look to other moments rather than live in the today of life, we are often filled with sadness and loneliness. Today’s readings invite us to a true and lasting joy experienced each day in the deep relationship we have with the Lord.
The first reading invites us to not stay in the past, mourning what is lost. There comes a moment to let-go of the past and look more deeply to see the Lord in the blessings that are present in the people and events of today. The Lord is leading us to himself with mercy and justice and knowing that he is with us, that we are not alone, brings us joy. Joy comes from the sense of purpose and meaning that we experience when we each believe in his constant and faithful love for each of us. “…Put on the splendor of glory from God forever”…you are a child of God. He loves you. No matter what happens, he is with you. He trusts in you. He believes in you. Therein is our joy.
The second reading invites us to live today as we look to the future. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Paul is inviting us to live this present day with the knowledge that the Lord is working through us wherever we find ourselves. Each person and event of our present day is important. We look to a future yes, but one that we are building today in the Lord. Joy comes from knowing that I can serve the Lord now no matter what the circumstances of life might be. Paul did that even from prison or when he was persecuted. Joy is ours when we give of ourselves each day in loving service of others.
The Gospel joy is announced in an apparently impossible context. All of the powerful and hated leaders of the Romans are mentioned. The place? The dreaded desert. When the powers of darkness seem to be invincible and our lives dried-up like the desert sand, the Lord announces “the salvation of God”. Nothing is impossible for God. We are not forgotten. We are not alone. God is with us. God will never abandon us. Joy comes from discovering that God shows his omnipotence through mercy offered to each of us and to all of humanity. Joy comes when I accept the mercy of God in my life and offer it to a violent world that can only be healed by divine love. The powers of hatred, violence, discrimination, and war will be overcome through mercy and forgiveness. Jesus is the sign of that mercy without limits. He is our joy, our hope, our strength and he will continue to shine through everyone who believes in him.
By Fr. Joseph Jablonski, MSC