It is important to accept the gift of joy and also to continue to grow in awareness of the places in which it is offered. To experience this gift, and also to savor it, we must foster a sense of gratitude because usually joy is an appropriate response to something God has given us. We respond in joy because we recognize that we have received something which is not about our worthiness, but rather is about sharing the gift of love with others. The table around which our families and friends gather for a seemingly ordinary dinner of no special occasion is one place in which we can find joy. The baptisms, first Communions, and weddings we attend are also times of joy. Whether it is an event or simply a time to be with those whose presence we value, it is important to remember that these shared experiences are gifts of love from God. We must keep in mind, however, that they are also part of the journey, part of the ministry of the followers of Jesus. If we look at the ministry of Jesus in the gospels we will see that He was often eating and drinking with friends, sometimes with strangers, and occasionally in the presence of detractors. Our lives as disciples should also be filled with both the solemn and the mirthful. Being a follower of Jesus means not only going into the dark places to bring light, but also into the places where we share joys in order to find new life there.
In reflecting upon the ministry of Jesus, I imagine there was joy in His eyes as he healed a leper, the woman with the issue of blood, or the one who He had unbound from sin. As He walked on water there had to be joy in seeing the astonishment of His friends who were beginning to grapple with the understanding that He was the Son of God. Jesus must have experienced joy every time He brought life where there was none. Followers do as the Master does, and so we are called to bring joy where we minister and to accept joy when it comes to us. If Christians were dour and serious all the time, then who would want to follow? Indeed, being a member of the Body of Christ is the most joyful gift we could receive and share. Therefore we must remember that joy is a gift and we do not have to conjure it up ‘out of the ether.’ Rather the source of our joy is in the reality that we are loved by God just as we are. When we gather around the table of celebration or when we encounter friends and strangers in the midst of our daily lives let us smile, let us laugh, and let us share joy. As the Bridegroom rejoices with His bride, so shall we rejoice!**
©Michele L. Catanese
* In the Gospel of John there is no reference to the temptation in the desert, probably because his gospel was written last and he knew his readers already were aware of that event from the synoptic gospels. John was writing about seven events that he called signs in order to truly reveal who Jesus is as Son of God. Therefore he went straight from the River of Baptism into Jesus’ three year ministry.
** The reference here is to the first reading from this past Sunday. It is the last verse in the passage, Isaiah 62:1-5.
All the photos are mine.
-The first is a view out over the plains in North Dakota.
-The second photo is of the cake at a recent wedding which I attended. It was a beautiful and very joyous event at which much fun was had!
-The third photo is of the Atlantic Ocean from Westhampton Beach in Long Island, NY. In the spirit of fun, I used it here because it could look as if Jesus had just walked on the water since the footprints are coming out of the surf, but there are none going in. However, I have to be honest: those are my footprints and I definitely do not walk on water. It was just a lucky shot.
-The final photo was taken at the Augustiner in Munich. It is a beer hall and restaurant. The food and the beer were really quite good and a good time was had!
At the end of the entry is an icon by Fr. William Hart McNichols called Christ the King The Bridegroom. It can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/christ-the-king-the-bridegroom-066-william-hart-mcnichols.html.