Dec. 13, 2015: 3rd Sunday of Advent C
Click to hear Audio Homily
Do you have any suggestions on how to make someone joyful? According to a foundation called Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, they suggest several ideas; perhaps you’ve already tried these ideas. 1) Next time you finish a workout at the gym, take an extra minute or two to wipe down the equipment you were using so it will be clean for the next person to use. 2) Whether you are at work, school, or home, clean up after yourself. When you clean up after yourself you make life easier for all those around you. 3) When someone does something nice for you, return their generosity with a pleasant thank you note to let them know you appreciated their kindness.
I heard a great example of someone experiencing joy. A parishioner facilitates a faith sharing group at a women’s prison where the women are exteriorly very tough--tattoos, brightly dyed mohawks and shaved heads, and unwashed face and hair. One female inmate in the group shared an experience of being in a cell with a new inmate who was detoxing cold-turkey from a substance addiction. The new inmate was undergoing painful and messy withdrawal symptoms. The female inmate with great compassion cleaned up the new inmate and cleaned up the mess around her. With that act of kindness, the new inmate experienced comfort and hope and the other inmate experienced the joy of being present to another.
The joy that St. Paul wrote about in the Second Reading is not the kind that we associate with loud laughing and exuberant celebrations. Rather, the joy that he wrote about was the “joy in the Lord,” which is marked by serenity and interior peace. It’s the kind of experience that cannot be affected by even exterior tribulations. St. Paul wrote, “For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39) With the Lord, there is joy within us even in our darkest hour of losing a loved ones, going through separation, or dealing with a terminal illness. When we take the focus off ourselves--that is, to go beyond ourselves--we experience inexplicable joy. Even with our own children, when we realize that they don’t belong to us but to God, then loving them and taking care of them bring us joy.
What ought we do to experience this joy? John the Baptist in our Gospel gives us suggestions, and it’s not something extraordinary: “Let the man who has two coats give to him who has none. The man who has food should do the same.” This sharing exemplifies “simple” charity on behalf of those who lack the basic necessities of clothing and food. Mother Teresa said that there is joy in giving, “God gives us things to share, God doesn't give us things to hold...” Many of you who have brought a gift for the Christmas Giving Tree and contributed to the Thanksgiving Baskets experienced this joy. Even today when you give to the Religious Retirement Fund, you experience a joy of gratitude to the Daughters of Charity and Brothers of Sacred Heart who served in our community.
It is difficult, sometimes, to give. Our modern way of thinking is that if we give, we will be left without. So the act of giving entails a surrender to God and trust that God will take care of us. Yet this placing of oneself in the hands of God, paradoxically, brings joy. It’s in the moment of this surrender that we realize how much God is already taking care of us.
Mother Teresa explained it this way: “Like Jesus we belong to the world living not for ourselves but for others. We are at Jesus’ disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that’s all right, everything is all right. We must say, ‘I belong to you. You can do whatever you like.’ And this is our strength. This is the joy of the Lord.”
Take that opportunity during this season of Advent. The joy that you have within is to be shared. The joy of giving may not necessarily involve things, but simply your time and attention. Spend time in prayer with the Lord to know what he is calling you to share or give.
-Fr. Paul Yi