we looked at John the Baptist and how he was the voice that announces and prepares the way. I love the Baptist. He is by far one of my favourite characters in Scripture. It’s a good exercise to go through the Gospels and read everything about him. I bet you’ll find some things you’ve never knew.
One of these is something very interesting: When Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56, and Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the baby, John the Baptist, moved within her. Scripture tells us that Elizabeth was then filled with the Holy Spirit (isn’t that what happens when Mary comes to us?). Then Elizabeth tells Mary, “as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.”
Mary comes to us, bringing Jesus, the Good News, and we are filled with the Holy Spirit; this makes us leap for joy!
This is why our character this week is Elizabeth.
The beautiful image above is one that I first saw painted on a banner hanging in a church in Puerto Rico. It didn't look like a photo. I recently learned that it's an image from the 2006 film The Nativity Story
(Hiam Abbass as Elizabeth and Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary). It’s a the scene from the Visitation. See how both women are filled with joy. You can almost hear their giddy laughter. They are filled with joy at seeing each other and they are filled with joy because of the wonderful, miraculous events that are transpiring in both their lives. I love that image!
I don’t know about you, but I always imagine Elizabeth as a woman full of joy.
After Elizabeth says this to Mary, Mary responds:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour!”
Mary also rejoices.
This Advent and every Advent we are reminded to be a people of joy.
We can think of joy as something reactive to what happens to us. I would much rather think of joy as a choice. I can choose to be joyful. I can wake up every morning and make a conscious decision to be open to joy. This is why Isaiah can say that “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul”
(Isaiah 61:10) That is why St. Paul can tell the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always”
and just in case they didn’t quite get it: “Again, I say, rejoice!
” (Phil 4:4)
Why would I want to live any other way?
Pope Francis has always, from the beginning of his Papacy, been a herald of joy. It is not an accident that his first apostolic exhortation is called The Joy of the Gospel
. The first paragraph reads:
“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”
Why is the Gospel joy? Because it is Good News.
When we discover the Good News we are filled with joy and we have no option but to share it. In many ways it is the joy itself that we share – but that joy compels us to share the Good News. I think that is why Mary “went in haste” (Luke 1:39). We go in haste because we can’t keep the Good News to ourselves.
That same joy is what also makes the disciples in Emmaus to go in haste (Luke 24:32-33). They don’t wait until the next morning; they don’t wait to clean up; they just get up and leave. They leave the food half-eaten on the table, the chairs over-turned and the door open! Their hearts were burning inside of them because of Joy!
When we meet Jesus Christ, we are filled with Joy.
That’s why Psalm 126 says, “We are filled with joy, for the Lord has done great things for us!”
Joy is not just happiness or giddiness. Joy is a deep-seated happiness. It is a happiness rooted in peace. Happiness is something we experience. Joy is a state of being. We can experience sadness while still being in a state of Joy.
It is pointless to share the Good News if it is not done in joy. To quote Pope Francis, we can’t be sourpusses
No one will listen to us if we are not joyful. Joy is not an option. Even if we do not have the words to proclaim, we will proclaim by our joy!
So many people are joy-less. There is so much bitterness, anger, depression, loneliness and hurt in the world. All of us know someone who needs joy in their life. Maybe some of you struggle with joy.
Who can argue that we need more joy in the world?
Not only is Advent a time to allow ourselves to be joyful, like Elizabeth, but also to bring that joy to others. Advent is a time to remind us that we need to rejoice always and when we rejoice we can say like Mary, “Holy is His name!”
During Advent we are called…
- To let the Holy Spirit fill us with Joy.
- To allow that joy to move us to give thanks and praise to God every day.
- To choose Joy every day.
- And to bring Joy to those who need it in their lives.
This is the Joy of the Gospel that is infectious; the joy of the lover who wants nothing but to proclaim their love to the world.
This is the Joy that allows us to love others and to worship God.
This Advent let us be that Joy to love and to worship.
Some questions for personal reflection:
1. What gives me joy?
2. Is there joy in my life? If not, why not? What can I do to have joy in my life?
3. Do I find it hard to love and/or worship God? How about loving my family and my neighbours?
4. What can I do to love (God and others) and worship (God) better?
Let us Pray:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. Holy is His name.”
Come Light of the World and fill us with Joy to be the Voice that proclaims, to love and to worship!
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:firstname.lastname@example.org @deaconpedrogm