It’s pretty funny how God works. Looking to see what readings I was asked to write about today, I found myself staring at the second reading from my own wedding! When I was a youth minister in Texas, I used to ask the teens at our youth group to think of one word that summarized each reading at Mass. One word only… You’ll end up with four words if you come up with one each for the first reading, psalm, second reading and gospel. It’s a great way to remember what you heard at Mass; and then every Wednesday at our gathering, I would ask, “Hey, what were your words??”
Well, for this Sunday, three of my words are the same…”REJOICE!” I will always remember kneeling in front of the altar with Jenni’s hand in mine, listening to those words….”Rejoice in the Lord always!” I think we chose this reading from Philippians for our wedding, first of all, because it had always been a favorite of ours but second, because our lives and our relationship in that moment were so filled with joy!
One of the most important things I’ve learned in life is that we too often confuse happiness and joy. They aren’t really the same thing. Happiness comes from the outside, joy from the inside. When my favorite baseball team won a big playoff game, I was pretty dang happy! Nothing wrong with that either 🙂 But joy…Joy comes from the inside. It’s not dependent on any external event. It’s the peace and confidence of knowing that we’ll always be OK because ‘God’s got our back.’ He’s got a plan, even when we can’t see it. If we only seek ‘happiness’, we find ourselves constantly searching for ‘things’ that make us happy. It’s a pretty exhausting way to live, always looking for a little fix of happiness from everything and everyone. Finding ‘joy’, well, that happens on the inside. The real joy in my relationship with Jenni doesn’t rise and fall with daily events. It’s so much deeper! In fact, why is it that some of the most joyful people I know have had some really tough things happen to them…like a son or daughter killed in an accident or a friend with cancer? To me, they are a testament to the fact that real joy comes from God and nothing on earth can give it to you OR take it away.
Look at the last couple lines of that reading: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your request known to God. Then the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s a guarantee from God that once we truly ask for what we desire, we can let go and trust Him completely. So this Advent, give yourself a break. Stop chasing every little scrap of happiness and instead look deep in your heart to find the real, lasting and JOYFUL love that God has for us!