We are now in the second week of Advent, that period at the beginning of each liturgical year during which we journey toward Christmas. This pilgrimage to which the Church invites us ought to be a hopeful one because, according to Isaiah, we are called to…
“prepare the way of the Lord… every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and with anticipation of no traffic hazards and no potholes, our grateful response could logically agree with that found in Ps 126
The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
But what if we don’t feel particularly joyful? Possibly a political situation is upsetting us; poverty may be haunting our doorstep; natural disasters such as fires, storms, floods may have impacted our lives or the lives of someone we know; we see instances of injustice, cruelty, and senseless violence in headlines and on TV screens every day; personally we may be dealing with serious health issues or a broken relationship or other type of loss. This is not the stuff of joy.
If we find it difficult to identify with the week’s readings on hope and joy, it could be helpful to ponder the whole story, draw back and see the larger picture, search for the detail that might have slipped past us upon first reading. For instance, in addition to the lines that I have already quoted from last Sunday, there also appears in the second reading from Phillipians a statement by Paul that helps to put the picture into better focus:
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value.
Increase of love is the first key because love always carries with it an increase in compassion, and a second is perception because it requires walking in the world of reality with all its pains and taking appropriate actions demanded by love. It is the last phrase, however, that truly grabbed me: to discern what is of value. Consider giving some time this week / this very busy week / to sort out what you really do value. Would it resonate with what Jesus values? Would it be rooted in love? If what we genuinely value most this Advent can be found in Paul’s prayer, then I suspect that we will taste Joy even when it is seasoned with the salt of tears.