READINGS: Isa. 35: 1-6a.10; James 5: 7-10; Matthew 1:2-11
Patience and joy are two themes stressed in today’s readings and, for many, this may seem like a very unlikely combination. What does patience have to do with joy? And, perhaps more to the point, why should we be patient as there are just so many days in our life to fill with fun, projects, and friends?
As unlikely as this pairing may seem it is not only scriptural but realistic. Often, we think of joy (if we think of it at all) as a giddy, light-heartedness which while fun at a party is generally looked down upon as a distraction from the ‘real work of life’. But joy is much more than being the ‘life of the party’ or always laughing. Joy, from a Christian perspective, is available to everyone (not just extroverts who shine in crowds) and flows from a deep-rooted awareness of who we are. This awareness is not intellectual but rather a realization of being loved by a Mystery far greater than comprehension and this love is not because of our achievements but because of God. Joy is a life’s companion for the one who knows God and realizes that we are humans, gifted and made in the image of God, not gods. Joy frees us from the illusion of being in control of reality (though we are called to be active in the world in spreading love) and keeps our hearts, as well as our minds, turned to the Holy Spirit. Joy can free us and is with us even in the worst of times- God never abandons us.
So how do we find this joy? That is where patience comes in. Patience allows us to not judge others and gives us the courage to see our own limitations (as well as gifts). This means stripping us of the desire to control others, reality and even God (why doesn’t God act like I want God to act?).
Patience and joy then are highlighted for us on this Third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) to remind us. Perhaps this week we can give thanks to God, pray for patience with people who annoy us or situations which are bothersome. Perhaps also we can realize that we are not alone- God is with us even in the hectic season before Christmas.
Mission Doctors who serve overseas are models of patience, serving under difficult conditions and bring healing where they can. Please pray for them and support them financially, if possible. Have a good Advent!
God bless you.
Br. John Kiesler, OFM