ADVENT: … joy? ….

Years ago when I returned from the Middle East, folks at cocktail parties and church often asked, “So, what did you learn in all your time over there?”

egads!  How to compress 5 years of living and working in the complex context of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel in a 3 minute chatty conversation?

But then the response came: “I learned about joy in suffering.”

Full stop. The experiences of five years whittled into one sentence.

‘Tis true, I saw Many Things (mostly of the non-joyful conflict-driven variety) but I also saw the incredible spirit of friends, colleagues, victims of violence and injustice as they reached out to those around them as beacons of Light, Love, Forgiveness, Peace and Joy.

I encountered more joy lessons in other conflict zones. Then living in Africa I witnessed courageous joy living amidst deadly diseases (poverty, injustice, and more.)

From this lesson toolkit of living examples, here’s Virginia’s take on joy…

Joy is not some bubbled-head happiness that depends on what happens.

Joy comes from within the heart, sometimes deep within when The Horribles crush us into near-oblivion.

Joy chooses to have faith in God’s Love, Mercy and Grace to carry on through the tough stuff that faces us, others, and hurting hearts wherever they may be.

Joy does not mean pain-free living, but does not let the pain drive us to darkness.  Joy chooses to follow the Light. (Even when it’s hard to see the dimmest flicker or spark or feel any warmth around us.)

Joy is the deadliest tool of Light because it dispels the darkness devised and delivered by the evil one and it’s evil minions (may they rot in hell in the eternal forever!)

Is this possible in the context of our whacked out world?  Yes, I have seen it over and over in inspirational Palestinians, Israelis, Albanians in Kosovo, Bosnians, Serbs, East Timorese, Congolese, Somalis, Indians, South Africans, Kenyans, Ugandans, Tanzanians and so many more (including my own family) here in America.

Joy finds value in the rubble of decimated lives, because THOSE LIVES ARE VALUABLE.

Joy comes from a well of Love and transports that love on wings of compassion that lift up the brokenhearted.

Joy finds roses in the rubble, something sometimes hard to do, but possible with God’s Help (lots of Help!)

… & Joy is what this season of Advent is all about. Light coming into the darkness. (Some things haven’t changed much – Mary’s time period included Roman occupation, injustice, exploitation, slavery and more…)

Light incarnated =  Emmanuel, God with Us

God’s Love + Peace + Grace + Mercy(for us) = Joy in our hearts

Joy recognizes the Gift of Life within us and around us.

of heart, mind and spirit.

Joyful heart from christmascard (2)

As we continue to pray for the hurting hearts in Connecticut, treasure the moments you have with your precious ones, as the families in Newtown treasure the moments they had.  May the Light of God’s love comfort them in this time of mourning as they begin the process of laying (20) little and (6) big bodies to rest.

…and may God’s Gift of Joy begin lifting anguished hearts out of the darkness of death & into the Light of Life.  For, Life truly is a Gift.

grace, peace & Gifts


P.S.  ….After Friday’s horrific Horribles, I spent a little time journaling with God (don’t be freaked out, it’s just a contemplative way to document prayer time silently spent listening to that Still Small Voice.)  Thought this short bit might be comforting…

“But Lord, I don’t understand!?!”

That’s OK, Precious Child.

Take My Hand

and I will lead & guide you

to a New Land,

where tears of joy fall
(if at all)

& No pain can touch your spirit:

Peace reigns all in all…

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12 Responses to ADVENT: … joy? ….

  1. Ro says:

    Thank you, Thank you!!

  2. carok jo says:

    Tears to my eyes as I read your writings

    • Virginia says:

      Carol-Jo, it touches me that this touches you… (! does that sound kinda, well, upside down?) methinks you know what i mean. Thank YOU for being joy to so many people (myself included!) … grace, peace & Joy in tough places – VA

  3. jaymers says:

    I love your comments on Joy. There is a “famous” priest at Boston College (I say famous because he would cringe with such notoriety, but he had a huge following while I worked at BC) named Michael Himes, perhaps you’ve heard of him. He does a great service to the term “Joy” in many homilies, distinguishing it from happiness, contentment, etc. I really like what you wrote here, as well, makes you think a bit more of the intentional nature of joy–kind of like God’s love and grace, it’s often there if we’re only willing to accept it.

    • Virginia says:

      oooooh, i will definitely look up Michael Himes. Sounds like a kindred spirit… BC, wow, one day would like to go there! what a blessing to actually work there?! … & so very true, we have to do the ‘open up our hearts’ thing to access God’s love & grace & JOY. Thank you, Jayme, for your insights. – i like ‘intentional nature of joy’ – will use that, for sure! grace, peace & intentional joy — VA

      • jaymers says:

        Oh, and to clarify, I was a lowly graduate student–but I had a great assistantship with campus ministry that helped immensely, so somewhat truthful to say that I “worked” there (but now it seems I probably should have been more forthcoming: I was a low-level serf). If you are a social justice junkie/catholic social teaching junkie (which you are!), it’s a fun place to be for a while! Grace, peace and intentional joy to you as well!

  4. John Paine says:

    Wow! These truths are so evident as we watch the people of Newtown pull out their candles to console themselves and the entire world.

    • Virginia says:

      thank you, John. ‘Tis true with so many who have lost loved ones to violence all around the world, yet choose to lift their candles of light for the world to see that love & hope can be stronger than hate… grace, peace & HOPE – VA

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