Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Feel good again by giving to others
Receive joy through the sharing of your time, talent and treasure
December 17, Third Sunday of Advent
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. In what sense are joy and peace by-products of love?
2. Are we a joyful Christian community?
3. When was the last time you danced for joy?
Several years ago the United Way selected as its theme something like: "Feel good again. Give!"
There is a by-product that fills our spirit when we are generous in sharing our time, talent and
treasure with others. That by-product is joy. There is an emotional response when we reach out to
others who are in need and assist them on the journey. The motive for giving ought to be love,
which has as its by-product the feeling of joy.
Jesus gave of himself. Herein is the meaning of Eucharist: his body and blood given for us. Thus
the Eucharist, though flowing out of supreme sacrifice, is also characterized as a joyful
celebration. In the sacrament we experience time and time again God's extravagant love for us
and come to know the Lord's peace and joy.
The prophet Zephaniah invites his people to shout for joy, to exult and to dance. Why? "The Lord
your God is in your midst." This is the God who renewed the people through the prophet's
message; this is the same God who comes to us today in word and sacrament. Once we
experience divine love fear no longer has dominion over our lives.
St. Paul invites his fellow Christians of Philippi to be happy because the Lord is near. Indeed, for
Paul, the Lord dwells within him. What the apostle longed for was that the same peace and joy
that he knew in Jesus might guard and protect the hearts and thoughts of all the Philippians. This
love of Christ chases away anxieties and worries.
Something was missing in the lives of the crowds, tax collector and soldier who came to John
seeking advice as to what they might do to make their lives meaningful. Why were they missing
the joy spoken of by Zephaniah and the happiness that Paul urged upon his people? John's
answer was clear and direct: share, be just, be respectful.
Of course, John was looking in the direction of Jesus. His cousin was the Good News of God's
love made visible, incarnate. It would be the fire of the Holy Spirit that would expose the soldier,
the tax collector, the priests, the prophets, all moms and dads to respond to others in a loving, just
and respectful manner.
Our culture, for all its possessions and power, does not seem to be characterized by a great deal of
joy. Happiness seems in short supply. So much fear, so many worries, high anxieties wherever we
look. How can we feel good again?
A life of stewardship might be an answer. Steward-disciples see God as the origin of all life and
freedom. They strive to receive God's gifts gratefully, nurture them responsibly, and share God's
blessings justly and charitably. It is most difficult to find a person of joy and happiness who is not
also a steward.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)