A Dominican Sister reflects:
Is 61:1-2A, 10-11 Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54 1 Th 5:16-24 Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
As the months of sheltering in place and living in bubbles roll on, I find myself compulsively reading such scholarly articles as “5 Ways to Survive the Pandemic,” “12 Tips for Good Mental Health,” “9 Hacks for Working from Home,” and even “6 Guides for Looking Good on Zoom Calls.” And I could go on.
Praying with today’s readings while thinking about the pandemic, our Dominican Family in the Ukraine and the people they serve, the ongoing failure of so many elected officials to even care about truth, massive human suffering, or our democracy, I realized that the readings give us a very practical survival guide. And not just survival—we have a recipe for joy. So here are today’s “Six Tips for Joy.”
The first reason for joy. We’re well over halfway there! (you can define “there” for yourself!). We have more candles lit than not lit. We are 9 days away from the winter solstice and the inexorable lengthening of days. We are 12 days away from Christmas, when we celebrate the fact that the Light of the world has already appeared among us. Those of you in Maria are 1 day away from more “liberty for the captives”!. We are 38 days away from an administration that will be more supportive of the people of the Ukraine. Vaccines have been approved and are on their way.
A second reason for joy. None of us is unemployed. We have been given meaningful work, of prayer and presence (more or less!), acts of love and service, the prophetic vocation, our common ministries of PAB, the Ministry Trust, IPJC, our sponsored institutions. Even more, we are joined with our brothers and sisters around the world in the daily charge of making straight the way of the Lord through the wilderness. And we have what we need to do this! Which brings us to the third cause for joy.
And this reason? Even though Catherine’s Closet is still closed, we are well supplied with glad rags. God has wrapped us, not in swaddling clothes but in salvation—healing, wholeness, reconciliation—and justice. Our presence, then, whether on Regina 4th floor or Regina Wilmette, in schools or hospitals or parishes, can be, is, also the presence of healing and right relationship for ourselves and others.
Not only are we clothed in power; we are given, in each moment, the gift of the Spirit—the breath and energy of God. This is our fourth key to joy. We are never alone; we have an Advocate in every situation. In the coming week, it might be helpful to sit with the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, to reflect on how those gifts and fruits are flourishing and developing in you and in others even in—or because of—this wintertime of pandemic. How have you seen those gifts at work in you this past week? How have you seen them manifest through our nursing staff, food workers and all who are sustaining us in life and mission? Where are they evident in our families, our friends, in frontline workers who are laying down their lives for others, in people of good will everywhere? How do we, do they, bring light to the darkness?
Which leads us to the fifth clue. We can even learn delight from Elizabeth’s bundle of joy, who was probably not known as “Jolly John.” When we, like John, know who we are—people entrusted with bearing witness to the light, but not the light itself—we know a truth which sets us free, a truth beyond ego and competition, yet also beyond self-doubt and self-deprecation. There is joy in knowing we have been called and sent, that we have, even now, a role in fulfilling God’s desires for the world.
And, finally, the sixth guide to joy. This sixth point is actually the bedrock of our joy, even in the midst of chaos, suffering, discouragement and evil. It is our rock, our fortress, our strength at all times, but especially when there is no joy to be found elsewhere. As surely as the earth grows vegetation, God has been, is, and will be making justice root and blossom. God has been, is, and will be merciful in every generation, including ours. God has been, is, and will be coming to help us. God has been, is and will be, light in our darkness. God has been, is, and will be Emmanuel, God with us.
In the beginning, in the end, in our very depths, our joy may be no more, and no less, than a flickering vigil light attesting to the presence of God our Savior, who looks upon us—always—in love. And that is enough. For the one who calls us is faithful, and will accomplish our salvation.
And so, friends, let us “Rejoice always.” (1 Th 5:16)
Pat Walter, OP