Blessed Miguel Pro’s biographers say that even from a young age he was always joyful. As a youngster he played practical jokes on his sisters, wrote silly songs and played them on his guitar, and later he humored his brothers in the Society of Jesus with comics.
Miguel even exuded joy when he had reason to be sorrowful: separation from his family for more than five years, the passing of his mother, and a stomach that leaked acid (an ailment that only grew worse after three surgeries).
Despite the excruciating pain in his stomach, and the sorrow of his mother’s passing, Miguel never complained, and people say that he even became more joyful. He did not cut back on his practical jokes or his laughter. Even though Miguel did not feel joyful, he chose to be joyful. And this reveals a little secret about joy: Being joyful is a choice.
Perhaps many people think joy is merely a sentiment. But, although joy has an emotional element, it is not reduced to mere feelings. With the grace of the Holy Spirit you can chose to be joyful always, even when there may be reasons against joy.
It is to this constant joy that Paul invites the Church in his Letter to the Philippians. He says, “Rejoice always!”
Despite his imprisonment — he probably wrote this letter from prison in Rome — Paul had learned to rejoice in the Lord always, and he thus invites the Philippians to be constantly joyful regardless of their circumstances.
Paul has to remind the Philippians because always being joyful is no easy task. Life is rife with disappointments, but there is reason to be joyful: Jesus Christ is near. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord can be found in every circumstance and there is no disappointment that even compares to knowledge of Jesus’ presence.
Even though his presence may not always be felt, it is by faith that Christians know Christ is always near. When I say that he is always near, I mean that my whole day is brimming over with encounters with the Lord: preparing breakfast, walking to class, serving the brothers, riding my bicycle and even when I pray and go to Mass.
It is the same for you. Jesus doesn’t come to you in a series of abstractions. Rather, Christ comes near to you very concretely when you feed your children, in your homework, when you meet the cashier at the local co-op and when you pray as a family.
We of all people in the whole world have a reason to be joyful: Christ has come and he is coming in just over a week. He is near, so show your joy. Maranatha!
Deacon Andrew Brinkman is in formation for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home and teaching parish is St. Stephen in South Minneapolis.
Sunday, Dec. 16
Third Sunday of Advent
- Zephaniah 3:14-18a
- Philippians 4:4-7
- Luke 3:10-18
How did you encounter the Lord today?