Something I see quite a bit around Saint Jos’s are joyful people. When I walk in the
office, I see Ann greeting people with a smile and friendly “hello.” I’ll see Josh, one of
our maintenance people, washing a window and asking me how I’m doing. I’ll come to
commission night and feel a sense of positivity in the room as we share a meal and
come together. And at Mass, you see people smiling and hanging around afterwards to
talk to one another. Joy abounds!
I have to tell you, that’s not the case in every parish. Sure, we have rough days at Saint
Joe’s, but they are the exception, not the norm, and what I don’t see here is a spirit of
negativity or cliques. In some parishes you come in and it feels about as uplifting as a
long line at TSA at the airport, or you go to Mass and no one smiles, and people stare at
a parent who has a fussy child or the person who had the audacity to sit in a space that
they normally don’t sit in. Other times there’s intense friction between different people in
the parish. Thankfully I don’t see that here. Instead, I see a whole lot of joy.
Joy is a good thing, and this week’s readings have joy throughout them.
We hear from the prophet Baruch, ‘Take off your dress of sorrow and distress.’
We hear from the psalmist, ‘we are filled with joy.’
We hear from St. Paul, ‘I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you
helped spread the Good News.’
We hear from the Gospel of St. Luke, ‘And all shall see the salvation of God’.
Pretty uplifting stuff. And so, a question for us to think about this week is how do we
radiate true joy in our lives? I think it comes down to being a person of action and a
With respect to action, by how we lead our lives in terms of our relationships with
people, we can do so much to help them see God more clearly, and to be people of joy
too. Its so many little things we do – bringing a spouse flowers on an ordinary day;
helping a son or daughter with homework; or spending time together as a family, that in
and of themselves might seem so insignificant, over a lifetime, those little moments can
do so much to foster faith. And so over these next couple of weeks as we are running
around from malls to card stores to post offices, my hope is we don’t forget that while
the gifts under the tree will be great, so much more so are all those intangible gifts that
we give over the course of the year in the forms of kindness and love that will do so
much to change hearts and win souls for Christ.
Finally, while those gifts of kindness and love need to apply to those we know in our
families, they also need to apply to the people that sometimes can get forgotten.
Prophets reminded the people of God’s presence and love for them, and we must
remember we share in that ministry through our baptism. It’s so easy to take for granted
what people do, and to see them just for their function first, rather than their humanity.
And while we do not have to be everyone’s best friend, I think more and more in a
society that gets less personal, it’s so easy to become blind that we are to see everyone
as Christ sees them, and must treat one another with love. So do little things, such as
thanking someone for the job they are doing or taking a few moments to get to know someone at the office, rather than starting the conversation with “can you take care of
this for me.” It can mean calming down when service as slow at a restaurant rather than
berating a waitress, taking into account that maybe they are short-staffed and she is
going as fast as she can; or not taking out holiday shopping frustration on the clerk
when a return policy isn’t to our liking. By saying a word of kindness to a checkout
person at the mall, it might not seem like much, but their day may just become a little
better because we decided to live out our faith in that moment. So many in our world go
to work day in and day out and feel such little satisfaction, or take seasonal jobs just to
get by or to have some money for their family. I think often we are good at seeing the
big needs of the world and parish, such as poverty or raising funds for building projects,
but we can lose sight of the spiritual needs that people have – one of the biggest of
which is the need for love and to be treated as Christ would treat them. Saint John Paul
II, called this the personalistic norm, which says “A person is an entity of a sort to which
the only proper and adequate way to relate is love.” When we do that, we can do so
much in helping one another realize how much we are loved by God, and help to shed
light on the darkness that can sometimes fill our lives, by saying with our actions you
are more than a waiter, an administrative assistant, or a cashier: you are a human being
who is unique and created in the image of God.
When I look at my life and the people who handed on the faith to me, I learned so much
not just from seminary, but through the hard work my parents did at their jobs, but also
at home in helping me with homework; in seeing them help my grandparents, and
seeing them make sacrifices for their family – things they did out of love for others. I
look back and see what they have done, and continue to do, and see a faith that is put
into practice on a daily basis. We may not have a constant happiness about shoveling
the driveway or sitting on the freeway at 7 a.m., but my hope is we do have a constant
joy in our lives – a joy that reflects our faith, and permeates every day and causes us to
do what we do for the glory of God, out of love for Him and one another.
Have a joyful week!