Are you a joy taker or a joy giver? The more moments of joy we create for others, the more joy we receive
Are you awake? Are you busy looking at your belly button and feeling sorry for yourself? The first thing that struck me about the Gospel was the instruction of John the Baptist: “go and see if this is the one.”
Today’s pink Candle symbol is known as the candle of Joy. At the moment, around the world, and may be in your own life, you don’t feel very joyful. And, being told you should be, doesn’t always help – sometimes we are like surly teenagers snapping back: “why should I be?”.
Please yourself, you can continue in your self-pity and misery, or you can “look up, look around” and discover there is something to be joyful about.
I interrogated Br Benjamin about moments in his childhood when things were bad, but a moment of joy broke through the struggles. He remembers when he was trying to get into Class 8: he had to compete with someone else in the family to get into Class 8, because the family had little means to pay. He passed the test to be the one to enter Class 8, but his sister-in-law died! It cost the family all they had to transport the body halfway round the country and finally get her buried: there was no money left for Class 8! Wah!!! What to do?
Br Benjamin went to see the Head Teacher, who kindly admitted him to Class 8 and assisted in paying the fees. A moment of joy in the darkness of defeat!
I like this simple, down to earth example, because it highlights how the Head Teacher (from his own pocket!), became the candle of joy in Br Benjamin’s life. So, are you a joy taker or a joy giver?
The First Reading is just a poet on drugs, unless we are actively trying to be a Resurrection person – a light in the darkness for others. Imagine you are in Ukraine right now. You would be surprised how many God moments of joy are happening there: our Oblate Brothers go out in their cities to help the many people looking for shelter; the churches and social halls are now make shift accommodation centres: people are smiling with relief when they finally arrive – a little bit of Heaven in the midst of war.
Those people who have suffered, and found refuge, they will love the First Reading. For most of us, we are not really suffering from anything worse than a pre-occupation with “myself”!
Here in Kenya, Andrew in the Nairobi Oblate Youth Group helps to distribute food at Mathare Slums. After the first day, he went home texting us: “yesterday I thought I was poor. Today I realised I am not poor.”
Can we look around at the beauty, and the opportunities God has given us? Can we open our little minds to grasp why Jesus came as a little baby, arms reaching up for help?
It was precisely to invite us to help God accomplish the great plan of salvation for all. We can only, really, be happy when, like Mother Mary, we develop “habits of compassion” by being kind to someone every day.
Thomas Halik once commented that an atheist is simply another term for someone who doesn’t have enough patience with God: Messiahs can only be born inside a womb in which there’s enough patience and willingness to wait, so as to let things happen on God’s terms, not ours.
That’s why our kindness and compassion for others has to become a daily habit of the heart in order to develop that “womb” within ourselves where God can develop in us: and Christmas can become a reality.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI