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Rejoice and Be Glad, Part 1 of 2

Matthew Harrison

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This past Sunday and Monday I was in Laval, Quebec to speak at the Holy Name of Jesus parish mission.
I appreciated being there, first of all because it was in a region that is named after Blessed François de Laval, who is one of the great figures of the Canadian Church. In fact, from what I've read he was considered the John Paul II of his day!
LavalAlso, another interesting tidbit I found out was that the first Church in the region – established some 300 years ago -- was named after St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. Of course, working in the media at Salt + Light Television, I thought this appropriate!
Finally, the parish name was “Holy Name of Jesus.” It occurred to me some time later that I usually begin my work for the day saying “Make straight my paths Lord, bless and sanctify all the work I do, I do it in your Holy Name” (it's a variation on a passage from, I believe, the book of Tobit).
One of the things I spoke about was the difficulty of being a Christian in today's world... but in these difficulties there can be great joy!
Let's face it, it's not easy to be a Christian. Quite often we are being pushed to the fringes, and told to keep quiet.
But we have to remember our faith is not about being accepted by the world. It's not about being liked by everybody. It's not about looking good for people. In fact our Lord even warned that we would be hated by people (see John 15:18+). Look at our example – Christ crucified!
Our faith though is about a relationship. You could even say two relationships:
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' (Matthew 22:37-39)
And what kind of example of love do we have: Jesus on the cross. A sacrificial love. Before we get to the Resurrection, the joy of Easter -- we have to endure the Passion.
Jesus warned us that we would face opposition – but that it wasn't in vain:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11)
Interestingly this comes immediately before our Lord's discussion of being salt and light to the world; the Beatitudes offer us a promise, before we are sent out to flavour the world with the Gospel, and be the light of Christ.
We're going to face difficulties, and there's times when our faith is going to feel like a burden. So I wanted to share some thoughts about how we change our tune towards this notion, so our faith isn't a burden.
First of all: attitude.
Is my relationship with God a list of demands? Give me this, I need this, I want this, etc. It's important to ask for things, and to trust that our prayers will be answered in the way that is best for us – as hard as that may be for us to understand. Regular viewers of our program Lectio Divina with Archbishop Thomas Collins with know that Archbishop Collins has a favourite line when talking about Lectio Divina, that great practice of meditating on Scripture. He says we must always enter into Lectio Divina with an open heart, saying “Speak Lord, your Servant is listening” not “Listen Lord, Your Servant is Speaking.”
So often I think we see our relationship with God in that way: “Okay God, I'm going to do this, and then you can do this.”, “What can I get out of it?”, or “What do I do to get this, this, and this?”
In a way, that's that's a right attitude; eg. What do I have to do to get to heaven? But in many cases it is self serving. And how is it really loving or developing a relationship with God? Imagine a relationship with your spouse based on those principles? It would be doomed!
If our relationship is a list of demands, then we will only become frustrated. Our relationship should be one of loving trust, one of constant communication an attitude that God loves me, and wants the best for me.
Second: you're not alone!
As Mass, look around you -- there are many other Catholics who probably feel the same way. Support each other. Lean on each other, organize prayer groups, or Bible studies to deepen your faith. At Salt + Light we often hear from viewers who say such and such a story from such and such a place was really touching, and they found it uplifting. It's true – it helps us when hear about others in the Church. It lifts our spirits, we learn about the heroic ways people are living the faith, be it big or small. We are a body of Christ – a communion!
Three: Read the Pope
Read what the Pope has to say. The Holy Father knows the struggles of Catholics. He often mentions different struggles in his weekly general audiences and Sunday Angelus addresses, and gives encouragement. He's always bringing a message hope, our great hope, who is God! You can check the Vatican Information Service for the different daily activities of the Pope, or even Zenit for full text of his addresses.
I'll continue tomorrow, with two more suggestions ...stay tuned!

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