12/18/2016-“Rejoice in the Lord, Always! Again, I say Rejoice!”

   We are so blessed to be living members of the Church of Jesus Christ! The Catholic Church is truly the Bride of Jesus and is truly our Mother. Holy Church, guided by the Holy Spirit and our Lord, knows so well how to best prepare us to celebrate the great mystery of our salvation in the birth of our Savior, Jesus! The theme of last Sunday’s liturgy was an exhortation to rejoice and a promise that we will rejoice. Already by the end of the 1st Reading, we had heard this theme of rejoicing ten times. The Bride of Jesus stood before the throne of God especially to ask Him to enable us to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate with solemn worship and glad rejoicing the birth of our Savior. Isaiah, quite the poet, painted this beautiful image in which a message became very clear: our Lord knows your situation intimately. He is aware of your struggles and trials. He is aware of your hardship and suffering. And, He is not idle. He is not sitting on His hands. He will come to save you and this is where our confidence comes that we will rejoice!  In order to help us open our hearts and desire this joy that only Jesus can give us, let’s reflect for a moment on exactly what happiness is.

After my own conversion, when I knelt on the floor of my dorm room at U of M and welcomed Jesus into my life, my life was overflowing with joy and optimism! I didn’t see this joy in my younger brothers. I remembered asking one of my brothers in high school: are you happy? He said: “no.” I responded: “do you think you can be happy?” He replied: “it’s not possible in this life to be happy!” Isn’t it sad that already in high school a person can have a view of life in which there is no room for joy, no room for happiness! For some of us, we associate getting what we want with happiness. If I only get what I want, then I will be happy! Yet, we know by experience that this is not true. I’ve shared with you before how one of my nephews was the happiest boy in the world because he had the Xbox 360, until...they came out with the Xbox One. He then became the saddest boy in the universe. In fact, he would never be happy again until he had the Xbox One. I actually witnessed him dupe his grandma on one of her visits. He was so sad and moping about. Grandma inquired why he was so sad. He opened his heart and spilled his guts with tears. Grandma went out and bought him the Xbox One. His joy was great, but it sure didn’t last long. His Xbox One is now collecting dust in the basement!  What then is happiness? I experienced a breakthrough in my own life when I was the manager of the monastery’s gift shop in Norcia, Italy. Norcia was a big pilgrimage destination, so there was always much work to be done. The counter in the gift shop would inevitably fill up with chaos: lots of orders to be made, bills to be paid, mail orders to fill and many other things. I would declare war on that counter and work feverishly to clear it off. Once I cleared it off, ha! Now I can be happy! But, the next day, the counter was back to where it was before I cleared it! At that time, in the midst of my frustration, I remembered a teaching of Aristotle from my philosophy studies: happiness is not a state of being, happiness is an activity. All of a sudden it made sense. I could find my happiness in the activity of clearing the counter, doing my job, and not in the state of being, by having a cleared counter! For all of us, happiness doesn’t come with reaching the state of being of: having a nice home, a nice car, fancy clothes, a family and money in the bank. Happiness comes from the activity of living our life well.

IS THERE A PARTICULAR ACTIVITY THAT WILL BRING US GREAT JOY?  Yes! Encountering Jesus, welcoming Jesus into your life and sharing your life with Him will bring us the greatest joy. When you live your life in relationship with Jesus, you will discover the activity that will bring you unending joy! As we drew near to Jesus in the Gospel, we received a confirmation from Him. When St. John the Baptist was struggling, Jesus revealed the importance of seeing and hearing that which He was accomplishing. Jesus invites us: if only you would turn to Me! Ask Me to open your eyes to see Me! Ask Me to open your ears to hear My Voice! If you turn to me, I will reveal Myself to you as a Loving and Mighty Savior!

Have a blessed week and remember to pray for one another.