Joy is very much in the air, the quiet joy of Advent as we wait in anticipation for Christmas as well as Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel , Evangelii Gaudium.
Yet, as Pope Francis points out even for us believers there can at times be a lack of joy and listlessness.
Last Sunday’s readings at Mass paint a picture of John the Baptist in prison who appears to have lost heart, he sends his disciples to find out if Jesus is in fact the one they have been waiting for. John who had beforehand boldly pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, now seems to have lost some of that certainty. Like John we too sometimes need a renewal of joy and reassurance, we need to hear the Good News afresh, “…be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon…” (James 5:8)
Those of us who are involved in the R.C.I.A. are called to witness with joy, to initiate with joy! Are we? If, like John, we are feeling tired and listless this Christmas can be an opportunity for us to be renewed in joy. Pope Francis reminds us that with Christ joy is constantly born anew (Evangelii Gaudium 1). Joy accompanies new birth, on a human level the arrival of a new baby, for believers the birth of the child of Bethlehem, and for those of us involved in R.C.I.A. having the privilege of accompanying others to new birth through the waters of baptism is a source of great joy.
Perhaps over these coming months we can attend more closely to these moments of joy and seek to more consciously initiate with joy. Pope Francis says that sometimes we can be like Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter, he adds… “I realise of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).” (Evangelii Gaudium 6)
This Advent and Christmas may we let the joy of faith slowly revive us, may we wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord anew, and may the joy of the Lord be born in our hearts afresh so that we may always initiate with joy. May we be like the angels and the Shepherds who shared the news of great joy that a Saviour has been born for us.