JOYFULNESS AND OPTIMISM
BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.
Be in your prayer space, follow the usual steps and settle into silence.
Sit still…..Relax…….Do not rush………
Take a couple of gentle, slow and deep breaths…becoming aware of your breath going in and out… stay focused on this breath of life……
Settle into silence, into peacefulness, into profound silence, into pure joy. Keep listening in such quietness and serenity. Come to that place, that space within, that place of deep silence, solitude, to just being here and now, without having to accomplish something.
Now from the depth of your heart begin to wish your mind well……….
Gently, prayerfully reflect on the following thoughts:
One of the most joyful traditions of all Christian communities has been celebrating the season of Advent every year. Advent is a time of waiting, of eager longing for the Messiah, for the one who can heal us, save us and make us whole. In waiting, we must await God coming in His time, in His season, in His way. In waiting, we may often wait alone, others may leave, may give up, may not care, may be busy about many things. But we must wait in silence, in solitude, in prayer. We must wait empty, open, poor, hungry, thirsty, longing…….We must make space for the Messiah, because HE COMES.
The Prophet Isaiah had a beautiful vision of the Lord’s house being established as the highest of all mountains, raised above all hills, to which all nations would came. On this mountain, he says, a sense of brotherhood, harmony and peace would come. The Prophet announced that all instruments of destruction would be turned into creative, life-giving instruments, “sword into plowshares…..spears into pruning hooks……..” From this vision came the call of Isaiah to “walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:1-5)
The popular messianic expectation of the day has been fueled by descriptions of the messiah as a mighty king. Israel’s Savior was described as one of David’s line who would rule wisely over his people, rid Jerusalem of its oppressors, gather and judge the tribes of Israel with justice and restore the ancient boundaries of the Promised Land. God would send a righteous ruler, who is made good and powerful by God’s own spirit (Isaiah 11:1-10) and would not repeat the sins or errors in judgment of his predecessors.
The prophet again described the joy that would come when the righteous ruler reigns. In his day the prophet says, “the desert and the parched land will exult……strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak…the eyes of the blind will opened….mute will sing……they will meet with joy and gladness and sorrow and mourning will flee” (Is. 35:1-10). The whole cosmos will reflect the joy of a redeemed people. God will do what the world thinks impossible. The season of Advent invites us to trust in the possibility of a world transformed by the coming of Christ, the juts one, the prince of peace.
The season of Advent invites us to discover and rediscover the secret of joy and peace that lives within us. That joy and peace are God’s gifts, the divine resource, as it were, waiting to be tapped into, experienced and enjoyed. God has not abandoned us, His people. He has NOT given up on us. We SHALL NOT give up on ourselves or on others.
The Joy that lives within us empowers us to go on in hope, even when storms of life disrupt relationships, incredible tragedies happen, mega-companies lie and cheat the public, ministers of God sin and abuse their privileges, etc. The joy that lives within remains an ever renewable wellspring of courage and peace because that joy is of God and that Joy is God himself.
The prophet Isaiah identified God as the “joy of my soul” (Is.61:1-11) and celebrated his vocation to bring “Joy”, to sing out the good news of healing, grace, justice and salvation.
The prophet Zephaniah called his people to rejoice because, “The Lord is in our midst”. “Shout for joy! Sing! Be glad! Fear not!”. Be happy! Because “The Lord is near”! (Zephaniah 3:14-18).
Our belief in the nearness of our God should remove all fears and anxieties while bringing true and abiding peace. The book of Zephaniah is brief, but contains doom and dire warnings while mourning the depravity of his people. The text referenced above is a call to rejoice, a departure from the mourning and the warning found in the rest of the book. Several of Judah’s kings had become unfaithful and immoral and abusive of their people. The faithful voice of Zephaniah mourned the depravity of his people, condemned their pride, their rebelliousness, and their lack of trust in God.
Zephaniah warned that the Day of the Lord was coming, a day when all nations, including Judah, would receive just retribution for all their sins. When that day dawned, the prophet warned, God would “remove the proud boasters from your midst …I will leave a humble and lowly people….they will do no wrong and tell no lies…….they will rest with no one to disturb them” (3:11-13). It was these, the humble, lowly (the anawim), the remnant of Israel, whom the prophet invited to rejoice. God himself would rejoice and “sing joyfully as one sings at festivals”, says the Prophet. Let us rejoice with our God during this season of Advent because “God is in our midst”.
Paul encouraged the Thessalonian community to make “rejoicing” a habit. “Rejoice always”, Paul says. (I Thess. 5:16-24). John the Baptist proclaimed repentance and change of heart, “make straight the way of the Lord”. Making “God’s way straight” means making room for God’s gift of Joy and peace.
Therefore, rather than digging, diving, climbing, buying, selling and searching in all the wrong places….look within to discover and rediscover the joy that God has placed there!
Children see advent as a time of joyful waiting, expectation, anticipation – time of giving, gifting, sharing, etc. Adults as we are, we need to go beyond the Baby in the manger to what He proclaimed when He grew up – the Kingdom – the advent of the Kingdom, the Kingdom that is already among us and within us.
Paul believed that the second coming of Christ was imminent. So he encouraged the Thessalonians to be prepared and be ready to meet him. The way to prepare was to “live lovingly and blamelessly”( I Thessalonians 3:12-4:2). He praised them for their sincerity of efforts in this regard and encouraged them to “make still greater progress”.
Advent is a time when we are specially reminded of living “lovingly and blamelessly”. May this Advent and the good news it proclaims challenge us to live lives that are loving and blameless.
Paul was a good pastor. He recognized, acknowledged and thanked his converts for their growth in faith. In this excerpt, he praises them for their faith and affirms his confidence that God who began a good work in them would bring it to completion. He encouraged them to let their love mature, “ripen”. He prayed for them, “that your love may increase ever more…….that you may be pure and blameless….filled with the fruits of righteousness…..” (Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11)
Paul encouraged the Philippian converts, “Rejoice in the Lord always!” and again, “Rejoice!” Because “The Lord is near”! Our belief in the nearness of our God should remove all fears and anxieties and bring us true and abiding peace (Philippians 4:4-7). Paul was in prison and the Philippian converts were about to experience the pain of persecution. Paul exhorted them to rejoice and he exhorts us today to nurture authentic joy amid the pain of war, car-bombings, terrorist threats and attacks, poor leadership, clergy scandal, etc. Paul’s reason for joy is “The Lord is near”.
Faith in the nearness of God should not only make us rejoice, but should enable us to cope with anxiety. Paul encouraged his readers and us today not to waste time fretting or worrying. Instead, channel all energies into prayer, with gratitude. Paul says that those who call upon God in grateful prayer, will be empowered to endure anxiety…… they will know God’s peace, which surpasses all understanding.
Peter encouraged his community to live blameless lives (2 Peter 3:12-15, 17-18). Early Christians had become weary of waiting for the return of Jesus and had begun to doubt if he would ever return. Peter encouraged them to welcome this period of waiting as a gift from God and wait patiently, blamelessly and in peace for the coming of the new heaven and the new earth where justice of God will dwell. He encourages them to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
Jesus taught the disciples to be watchful, alert and awake…to be prepared. He said to them that no one knew the day or the hour when God would break into their history. Be watchful! Be alert! Be vigilant like the gatekeeper awaiting the Master’s return: “Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37). All believers are urged to wait patiently and vigilantly for the Lord’s coming, not knowing time or space or situation, but joyfully waiting with great expectation. So be prepared. Be alert! Stay awake! Be joyful! Be optimistic!
Waiting in expectation is not a passive, inactive, idle and unimaginative presence in time and space. It is dynamic, active and positively imaginative waiting. It is like the servants being paced “in charge, each with his own work” or like the gatekeeper being “on the watch”. As Paul says in the reading above (second reading) while waiting, we must live “blameless” lives relying on God who has called us to fellowship in Christ.
Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth and gave her much joy and comfort and courage. They truly became a source of blessing and Grace for each other as they shared how God was working through them and through the new lives they were nurturing within them (Luke 1:39-45).
Mary reached out to her cousin in need. Reflect on reaching out to others, even beyond personal concerns and needs.
Mary stirred up life in Elizabeth. “The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy”, said Elizabeth. Reflect on stirring up life in other. The first expression of the joy of the coming of Jesus was the leap of a baby growing within an elderly woman. What an amazing experience: amazing Grace – a baby in one womb responding to another baby in another womb – one tender life responding to another in its tenderness!
Jesus said: I have come so that you may have life to its fullness (John 10:10) and that you may be joyful and your joy may be complete (John 15:11).
Be joyful! Be optimistic!
Cultivate a positive, optimistic attitude toward life and the world around you. An optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty while a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity! Welcome and respond positively and joyfully to the many wonderful opportunities the Lord sends you with courage confidence and optimism.
The opening message of Jesus was: “Reform your lives! The reign of God is at hand!” This is the good news…this is the Gospel….the presence of the reign of God, the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ of Christian life. We do not know how or when all things will be transformed.
On our earth the Kingdom of God is already present in mystery: it is and it is not yet. It is the beyond that is within! One who is transformed by the Gospel values will come to know the “beyond that is within”. This is our hope.
As deformed by sin, violence and war, the shape of this world will pass away. We are offered the hope that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice and peace meet, embrace and abide……… and the blessedness that comes from this transformed world will surpass all the longings for peace which spring up in the human heart.
Our hope is rooted in the unconditional love of God for each human being. God never gives up on anyone. God’s love is everlasting…..steadfast…..unconditional. Our hope is not a passive waiting for things to happen. It calls forth continual conversion if we are to hasten our journey into the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace. We are constantly challenged to live Blameless, optimistic and joyful lives.
Fr. Gus Tharappel,msfs