Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
We know what it means to rejoice in the Cardinals or to rejoice in the Blues when they’re having a good season. I think we can learn, more deeply, what it means to rejoice in the Lord.
“The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart” (Psalm 19:9).
We know what it means for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or a birthday to give joy to our hearts. I think we can learn, more deeply, what it means to let the precepts of the Lord give joy to our hearts.
I’m not scolding. Rejoicing in the Cardinals and the Blues is a good thing! Finding joy in holidays is a good thing!
But I think we can — and need to — take what we know from those natural realities and let it lead us into a deeper appreciation of supernatural realities.
For example, we might learn to rejoice in sharing how we’ve seen the Gospel in action — in our own lives or in someone else’s life — just as easily as we rejoice in sharing about a Cardinals’ or Blues’ game that we saw.
We make this kind of transition in other areas of our lives. Most people remember the excitement that filled us during childhood at the prospect of receiving Christmas or birthday gifts. And most people make the transition, at some point, to being just as excited about the gifts we give to others. I think God is inviting us as His Church to make that kind of transition when it comes to sharing the Good News, or simply sharing what God is doing in our lives.
Similarly, most of us had the joy, at some point, of having a really good teacher in something. We were excited by what we received from those teachers. Thanks be to God for the teachers who were able to bring us that excitement!
But every good teacher makes a transition: from being excited about what they receive to being excited about what they’re able to give. Every physician makes a similar transition: from being excited about what they receive as medical students to being excited about the care they can give as physicians.
The apostles experienced this pattern. For three years they were energized by what they received from Jesus. After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they were also energized by sharing the Gospel and bringing others to faith.
It’s time for us, as Catholics, to make that transition. We have been, and in crucial ways always will be, energized by the graces we’ve received. It’s time for us to add something: to learn how we can also be energized by what we give — especially when it comes to sharing the Good News of how God is acting in our lives.
When Nehemiah told the Israelites “rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength” he was speaking to them during a time of re-building. We, too, are in a time of re-building. Let’s take his words to heart.