IN DEFENSE OF JOY
(Saturday, December 22)
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people of good will!’” (Lk 2:8-14)
Do we dare be filled with great joy, this Christmas, when many voices (in and outside our own heads) point to all that is wrong with our world, and plenty of reasons to be filled with fear of even worse times to come? We do, my friends. Because those voices, which try to render us joyless at all times, are not our friends. They would banish all joy from humanity, because a joyless humanity would be incapable of any life worth living. Our true friends, including the invisible good guys, the angels, don’t talk like those voices. The good angels say, “Do not be afraid, for *behold*…” They say, Look: There is good news. There are “good tidings.” Come and see…
Joy takes work. “Seeing” God’s goodness and listening in to His “good tidings” is a choice, which requires positive action. Joy breaks into our lives as we go about our good work, whatever it is we are called to do, just as it broke into the lives of the shepherds “out in the fields.” They were not, as we are not, constantly experiencing “great joy” amidst our labors, which also involve great sorrows. But our sorrows, endured on the Way of the Cross, turn to joy, in God’s time: “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” (Jn 16:19-22)
So, let me let myself grieve, in times of grief, and let me let myself rejoice, when “a human being has been born into the world.” Christmas is such a time. And the Human Being that has been born into the world is inviting me to come and see Him again, because He wants to see me again and again, in joy: “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” O Lord, glory to You.