At this time of year, people (excluding university students) tend to be full of joy. They are joyfully doing their Christmas shopping, baking, and decorating. They are attending Christmas concerts and parties, singing Christmas songs, and going on family outings. These activities bring one kind of joy, and I fully admit that they make me very happy, but there is so much more to joy than this.
As Christians, we are called to live a deeper joy – a joy that permeates our whole beings regardless of what activity we happen be doing. The Third Sunday of Advent reminds us why we are joyful. In the first reading this Sunday, Isaiah says that the Lord has sent him “to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61: 1-2) Isaiah’s words are not empty platitudes for a dejected people. His words foreshadow the coming of Christ. My friend told me just today that Christ didn’t just come for all: He came for each. He came for the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, and the prisoners. Even if we are not literally in jail or living on the streets, at times, we all fall into these categories. We can be brokenhearted when someone we love has let us down. We can be poor in faith. We can be prisoners of our own sin. Jesus came to set us free. Just as a prisoner who is finally released is filled with elation, each of us should also be filled with jubilation. The question is: how do we genuinely experience this all-encompassing joy and how do we share this joy with the people around us?
In the second reading from this Sunday, Saint Paul writes, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5: 16-18) Wow, always be joyful! That seems like a really tall order. It can be extremely difficult to always be joyful, but Paul also tells to pray and give thanks. When we do these things, joy truly does follow. My favourite part of this passage, however, is the last line. It is God’s will for us to be joyful! This is a wonderful realization. Our desire to be joyful is in line with God’s will for us. We must simply open our heart to God and allow Him to fill us with joy.
Doing this can sometimes be a huge struggle. There was a time in my life when I got depressed very easily. I didn’t feel like I had any friends. I felt like my family didn’t understand me. I felt overwhelmed by pressure of my own making to excel at absolutely everything. In short, I was miserable. Not only did I not see the countless blessings in my life, I had forgotten that there is always a reason for joy. God used a number of experiences to nudge/shove me out of my mindset. I soon learned that joy does not depend on the situation around me; it depends on my ability to remember every day that Jesus came into the world to save me. I want the joy in me to spill out into my interactions with everyone I meet. I believe that smiling and truly looking into people’s eyes is the first step to spreading abiding joy. This leads to spreading the Gospel because, one day, someone is going to ask what makes you so happy and what makes you so sincere. When that happens, I pray that you will have the courage to share the Good News.
Almost every morning, I read a letter that my aunt and uncle wrote for me before I left for university. They shared some very powerful insight that inspires me each day. I would like to share a few lines with you in the hope that it will inspire you, as well. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. … Just to be is a blessing. Live to be a blessing to others. If you live like this, happiness will find you!” As we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, let it remind us to cultivate lasting joy within ourselves through prayer and thanksgiving, and to radiate our joyful light outwards so as to warm the hearts of those around us.
By: Katrina MacKinnon