A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Joy in Our Hearts

Posted on: March 21, 2013

Spring arrived yesterday—even in the National Capital Region, though you wouldn’t know it from looking at this week’s fresh snow.

There are certain rites we associate with this season, like spring cleaning. In my house, this will include a toy cleanup and purge, since my son will soon turn 13 and doesn’t play with many of his toys anymore.

Maybe spring cleaning should go beyond dusting for cobwebs and cleaning out junk drawers to taking a closer look at our spiritual life.

Our culture tells us many things can make us happy: food, alcohol, money, power, the “right” house or car, and even plastic surgery. But even if these things could make us happy, let’s face it—happiness is fleeting. What lasts is joy.

My parish church recently held a mission. As the Redemptorist priest speaking during the mission reminded the congregation, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11*). The priest noted that many people attend Mass regularly and try to follow Jesus’ teachings yet don’t seem to know what joy is.

It’s often said that Christians are an Easter people. So shouldn’t we be filled with the joy that comes from knowing our Saviour who loves us and died to save us from our sins, who sent us the Holy Spirit as a counsellor, and who gives us strength to “do all things” (see Philippians 4:13)? And shouldn’t this joy be something others can notice?

There are people in my parish—fellow parishioners as well as priests—who seem calm even when life is busy and stressful, who naturally put other people at ease, who live out their faith without trying to call attention to themselves, who just seem content. They share not only their treasure but also their time and talents with the parish and clearly enjoy serving the Church and the Lord. They just radiate joy.

If we are to be salt and light in the world (see Matthew 5:13-17), that has to include showing others by our lives that being a Christian makes a difference to us. That not only do we want to serve others to show them the love God has shown us, but we also find joy in our faith. Who would be drawn to become part of something that seems to make other people miserable?

So imagine that someone is visiting your parish church for the first time. Would they find a congregation with parishioners of all ages, or no young people in sight and many an empty pew? A warm welcome, or a glare from the person whose “spot” they’re sitting in? Prayerful and joyful worship, or a congregation going through the motions?

Now imagine people are dealing with you on an average day. Do they often hear you complaining, or do you generally have a positive outlook on life? Do they notice that you’re kind and caring, or do they think you’re just concerned about finishing your tasks and getting to where you’re going, oblivious to others’ needs? Would they know you’re a Christian if you didn’t tell them?

I pray that, as Easter approaches, people would see the joy in our lives and want to experience this joy for themselves.

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition)

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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