Sunday, December 14, 2014

Joyful Realism

I will never forget the year on this Sunday when a little girl came up and kept tugging on my chasuble,"Father Wayne, Father Wayne." When I bent down, she look me straight in the eye and announced, "You're wearing a little girl color." To which I could only respond, "Yes, I am." We can call it rose all day long; it's pink.
We only wear it two Sundays per year but it is critical to our faith.

The color represents joy. And on this third Sunday of Advent we are reminded that joy is the fundamental attitude of the Christian. In the second reading today from 1 Thess 5 we are given three commands:
-Rejoice always.
-Pray without ceasing.
-In all circumstances give thanks

And why should we do this

For this is the will of God in Christ for you

Let's start with the second one: Pray without ceasing. Does this mean we should walk around mumbling prayers constantly? Of course not.

Should there be specific times that we sit down and pray? Yes. But all of our various times of prayer and various spiritual practices should have the same goal, to reach the point where we walk through life constantly consciously aware of God's presence. From the first moment we wake until we fall asleep to do everything "through him, with him, and in him." In response to that constant awareness of God's presence we will carry out the third command: in every circumstance give thanks.

2014 has been a very difficult year for many people around me, and there is no guarantee that 2015 will be better. But one grace that has come from the struggles is a deeper ability to appreciate the good things, beginning with the simple gift of life. In every circumstance there is always something to be thankful for if we look at the world through the eyes of Christ.

And if we walk through life constantly aware of the presence of God, constantly looking for and being grateful for the gifts that we have received, then the first command will be the natural result, constant joy.

Christian Joy is not a superficial or naive happiness. It is not that happiness that comes from ignoring the bad in life. It is the response of the wise men to seeing the star, it is the response of the shepherd when he finds the lost sheep. But it also the response in the beatitudes to "Blessed are ye when they reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

Pope Francis writes, "The basic element of joy, then, is profound peace, that imperturbability in the Spirit that remains with us even in the most painful, excruciating moments."(Open Mind, Faithful Heart)

If we are truly Christians we are absolute realists. We confront life head on. We acknowledge evil, suffering, sickness, pain. And yet because we know that God is love and God is King, we smile. We remain at peace.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (Jn 15:11) Greek word here is the same one from which we get plethora. God wants us to be full to the absolute brim with his joy, his peace.

So this morning I will proudly wear my little girl color vestment. And in our homes let us light the rose colored candle no matter what problems we face.

-Rejoice always.
-Pray without ceasing.
-In all circumstances give thanks