This week I will touch on the topic of being joyful while sharing the Gospel and Jesus’ word and love. Pope Francis is a great example of a shepherd who does not think twice before laying out his heart for the needy and sharing with them the joy that he receives from the Father. But how can we do the same?
We have all heard of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke’s Gospel. We have been raised with the mentality to continually seek the poor and the lost, even if that means leaving the remaining 99 sheep behind. We have been told that so often that becomes kind of second nature and we don’t think about actually applying it. On the other hand, we know that each one of us is always noticed by God. We know that to Him, we are not just another living being on earth. We are not a number. We are very important to Him and He loves us so much that he offered His son as sacrifice for the salvation of all of us, like we heard in yesterday’s Gospel.
But how are we to evangelize and to seek the lost? I want you to close your eyes and imagine what your expression would be if a stranger knocked on your door and there was no one else in the house. Would you be frightened? Or if a friend of yours was going through a rough time but you were swamped with stud you had to do. Would your expression be one of stress and anxiety? You already have two exams to study for by the end of that week, and you still have to do laundry, an additional problem would not be a priority on your to-do list. Or maybe someone you know opened up to you and you just don’t know how to react or what to say, so you change the conversation. In the parable, we see the shepherd filled with great joy when he found his missing sheep. Notice how different this reaction is from the examples that I gave you. And by the way, they are all real examples of my life and the things that I have struggled with. But let’s talk about joy, shall we?
J-O-Y: Yes. The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (according to Merriam-Webster dictionary). This is the same emotion that caused St. Elizabeth’s baby to leap in her womb when he heard Mary’s greeting, and that same feeling you have when you are going to see your loved one-( whoever that might be)- or your favorite sports team, or music band…you get my point.
The idea is to reach the lost as if they had already been found. Simply by you reaching out to them is a way of preaching the encounter with Jesus- the encounter of the longing of the human heart with the answer of Jesus. Father Barron in a speech to a group of students said, “The shepherd if never happy or satisfied if one sheep has wandered away.”
I am not here to tell you who the sheep are in your life. I am not here to tell you to memorize all the passages in the Bible that talk about salvation and repentance, or all the psalms that are offerings of thanksgiving for having found God. I do not have that divine gift to be in the back of your ear and remind you to be attentive to your surroundings and notice who is in need of a smile, a high five, a hug, a joke, a really bad pun. What I am saying is to be joyful. Pope Francis invites us to “let ourselves be submerged in the joy of the Gospel, and to nurture a love that will illuminate our vocation and mission”.
Whenever I go to a social event or a party, I can almost instantly tell who is the happiest or funniest person. In class, the people who are the most joyful ALMOST ALWAYS are surrounded by a lot of people. And the truth is that happiness is a very attractive quality to have. I always try to surround myself with people who are positive and happy because I tend to be very pessimistic at times. To see a friend of yours smile or say a really corny joke that they thought was hilarious is just a reminder to be happy and joyful.
So, why don’t we try to be that person? I mean, all it takes is a smile, or a thumbs-up, and always a heart that is ready to welcome anyone it meets and share God’s joy. Or, if you are like my roommate, it just takes a series of terrible…I mean terrible puns written on small pieces of paper that you tape to the refrigerator in the kitchen for all to read. Maybe that act of joy will lead to a good conversation with one of your friends who is struggling with something.
If you got anything out of this blog post let it be this: strive to never let anyone come to you without leaving a little less sad and a little more joyful, because it is in that joy that he or she will find God’s word and love.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta