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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES | Finding joy during a pandemic

Trying times and difficult situations do not exempt us from our task of sharing God’s joy with the world

Traditionally, the Third Sunday of Advent has a special flavoring of joy. This year, we are joyful, not in spite of the pandemic, but in the midst of the pandemic. This isn’t a call to joy by living in a pretend world, negating the hardships of our lives and others. No, the challenge is to be joyful in the midst of this challenging time. Joy doesn’t mean always laughing and smiling, socializing and cajoling. True joy wells up from within, as we encounter Jesus, who is present in our lives. I know that we are getting ready to celebrate His birth, but that is remembrance. I know that we are preparing ourselves for His coming again, but that is in the future. We can experience joy in remembrance and anticipation, but what about the joy of the present moment, whatever it brings?

Isaiah, the prophet, speaks of being chosen by God to fulfill God’s kingdom on earth, to restore part of a broken world and to be the messenger of hope in the midst of that brokenness. He seems to find joy in being chosen by God to live that mission. Do you notice, even when your own personal or family life is trying, to be anointed by God to be a healer in our world today? I know that He has part of that mission for each of us. Sometimes the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one clouds out that mission. Physical, psychological and spiritual sickness can divert our listening for our anointing, but it is still there. How can we regain that joy in the midst of those diversions?

Even the widow with two small coins found a way to share with and give joy to the larger community (Mark 12:41-44). Even the widow of Zarephath, in the midst of a drought and a visit by a demanding prophet, recognizes and acts with joy (1 Kings 17:1-24). Of course we remember the virgin named Mary, betrothed to Joseph, who responded with her simple life and says yes with joy (Luke 1:26-38). Notice that trying times and difficult situations do not exempt us from joy and certainly ought not be the excuse for refusing to act out this mission for joy in the world today.

Where are you being called to “bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God?” I know that your parish, religious community, Newman Center or place of faith has these opportunities if you are experiencing the anointing of God to act. Can you bring joy at this time to those who need to have it most? I guarantee you that you will be filled with a sense of wonder and awe as God uses you to do His mission work. Pick up that phone, get involved in your local intercessory prayer group, help load up food for the hungry, write letters to those who are incarcerated, send a greeting of thanks to a health care worker or first responder or necessary worker, take some time to assess your own blessedness, and keep your eyes and hearts open for the Lord’s anointing of you. Be joy-filled and act with joy.

Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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