While it seems almost sacrilegious to write about joy so soon after the events of this past Friday, this Sunday was Gaudete Sunday, or Joy Sunday. I was so blessed to be able to work with our parish’s children this Sunday. None of them brought up the tragedy. Instead, they focused on the joy of the season. Thank God, because I was finding it hard to find the words to convey joy given all the loss.
Joy. The word brings different visions for each of us. For myself it brings the feeling and remembered visions of holding each of my children for the first time. When I asked the kids on Sunday what the word joy made them think of, they said “happiness”, “presents”, “playing with my friends”, “my family” and my favorite “Jesus!” It was hard not to share their giggly happiness, and the lessons from Zephaniah and Luke were easy to give to them – joyful preparation.
The first reading was Zephaniah 3:14-18. In it, Zephaniah, a prophet, counseled the Jews to
Sing, Jerusalem. Israel, shout for joy! Jerusalem, be happy and rejoice with all your heart. The Lord has stopped punishing you; he has sent your enemies away. The King of Israel, the Lord, is with you; you will never again be afraid of being harmed. On that day Jerusalem will be told, “Don’t be afraid, city of Jerusalem. Don’t give up. The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you.”
Zephaniah, like all Jews, even today, was waiting for the Messiah, the one who would come and deliver them from oppression. Please note that they never would consider the Messiah to be the Son of God. That would be a blaspheme against God. But regardless, they didn’t have to be somber and depressed, they could be joyful while waiting because they, and we, will “rest in his love”. We should also be joyful in our waiting and preparations for Christ’s return because as He has proven once already, we all “rest in His love.”
The Gospel talked about John the Baptist and his ideas to prepare. In Luke 3:10-18 John said that “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”
He told the tax collectors that they shouldn’t take more taxes than they were supposed to. Soldiers were told (and I’m using the Children’s Lectionary for what we talked about) “Don’t be a bully, don’t lie about others and be satisfied with your pay.”
I’m thinking the last two speak volumes about events of the last few weeks … but I digress. We are a nation of people who have a lot. Even our poor have a lot compared to the poor of other nations. Many of them have cell phones and televisions. The fact that, while there are homeless among us, those poor that live in a house here aren’t living in mud hovels speaks to the fact that we are a nation of plenty.
So we can do as John asks. How many of us have multiple coats, shoes, hats? How much food do we throw away? I asked the kids what they would see Christmas morning. Of course I got a chorus of “PRESENTS!” Then I asked them wouldn’t it be fun to go home and go through your toys and make room for the new ones? They loved the idea of joyfully making room and helping others at the same time.
Can’t we all joyfully make room for Jesus? Can’t we all wait with joy in our hearts at the love God has for us? We are all shocked, sad, angry and at a loss for the reasons for the tragedy that befell members of our larger community. But please, don’t let that cloud the childlike joy of the Advent Season.
Image: Colours of Happiness; source: Colours; author: Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE
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