September 25th – XXVI Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Friends,

A thank you card that I was not expecting is the inspiration for today’s column. The Serra Club sent me a card to thank the parish for starting up the Vocations Chalice that I described in last week’s bulletin. The Serra Club has been promoting vocations for years in our Archdiocese and throughout the country. On the back of the card was a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “Joy is the net by which we catch souls for Christ.” 

Joy! It must be the hallmark of the Christian. The joy of Jesus Christ is what draws others to our faith, and they must feel that joy in each and every one of us. When visitors walk into our beautiful church to join us for Mass, I pray they encounter a joyful people. I know they do. So many times, I have been approached after Mass by a visitor who tells me how welcomed they felt here at Little Flower. There has been an anomaly or two, but I do not wish to dwell there because we are a joyful parish. Just this past month with school back in full swing and families returning from their summer vacations, we have all noticed the number of children that delightfully swarm the church especially in the late morning Masses. The sounds of children give life to a parish. They are a reminder that we are a growing family, and that every single one of God’s little ones, no matter the age, are always welcomed in this sacred space and not cast aside to a cry room or to Sunday daycare. The family is nurtured at the foot of the altar. We are joyful witnesses to this nurturing and growth. Just last Sunday, a family approached me so that I could bless their 10-day old child! What a gift! (In case you were wondering, that’s not the youngest child I have blessed at the steps of our church after a Sunday Mass. That record belongs to the 3-day old baby I blessed last year whose mother had just left the hospital and came straight to Mass.) 

Joy is all around us. We just have to let it overwhelm us, and let our hearts be opened to this infectious joy that comes from Christ. Yes, I know that there are times when we can’t even crack a smile. We may have just suffered a great loss and are simply coming to church for consolation. As a priest, I am always cognizant of that when I celebrate funerals, but I still do so with a smile. Why? Because even in grief, joy cannot be discarded. If we truly believe in eternal life as we profess in the Creed every Sunday, then we know and pray that our loved ones are with the Lord and sharing in the Resurrection. So many times, I have been present at wake services and witnessed the family of the deceased consoling the mourners, and they usually do it with a smile. 

Pope Francis made a passing reference to this in his first encyclical which incidentally is called The Joy of the Gospel. He writes: 

  …an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ”.

Evangelii Gaudium,10

Pope Francis quotes St. Paul VI towards the end of the last paragraph, and it should prompt us to ask the question, do we “glow with fervor” and share in the joy of the gospel? Is this a parish where we experience the joy of Jesus Christ? The high number of catechumens and adults who want to come into full communion with Holy Mother Church that we have experienced in the last month is tangible proof that there is indeed joy within these hallowed walls. Catch it. Share it. Delight in it. After all, one of our Lord’s most fervent desires can be found in this
simple saying to his disciples the night before he died: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11) 

God bless you all,

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