Holidays and joy don’t always go hand in hand and many times things don’t turn out the way we want or plan. Some of us work very hard to be happy, and it can get tiresome, but we must continue to choose joy and trust in the process until things unfold when it is ready to unfold and to keep in mind that things are not always packaged as we had expected so letting go of expectations is essential. Christmas preparations like shopping, decorating, cooking, and having family all together in one place do not always give us joy; and things don’t always happen the way we want because we want.
Gaudette Sunday, the third week of Advent, which represents joy is a time for us to be patient with ourselves and allow us to feel what we are feeling and find solace and peace in the birth of Christ. This is not always easy to do, but we must try. During mass this past Sunday I was reflecting on this very thought when I felt an overwhelming sensation of joy rise inside of me as I had remembered all the answered prayers this past year of 2015. They were not always answered in the way I had expected, but they were answered, and that sudden realization had overwhelmed me with gratitude and joy. When you are struggling with many things this is a gift to savor and savor I did.
By savoring this moment it brought to mind another incredible experience of joy I had experienced a few years back on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. It was winter, cold, and misty on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. My cousin and I were shopping in town across the way of St. James Church. It was growing close to the time of the apparition, and I wanted to get back to the Church before it began, but my cousin was taking longer than expected, so I decided to wait outside. Standing in the cold looking around I noticed that all the roses and marigold were still in bloom. As I got closer to them, the Church bells starting to ring announcing the time of the apparition. I bowed my head where I was standing in a moment of silence and as I looked down I noticed a landscape rock at my feet. I began to see an image of Mary appear on the front of it. At first, I thought I must be seeing things, but as I looked more carefully it was indeed real. I wondered if anyone else could see what I did so I burst into the store and asked everyone to come outside and check it out. The owner of the shop said, “What??? are you kidding me?? No way!!! I hit that rock with my car every day there is nothing there!” I replied, “just come and see.” He was reluctant, but when every person in his store came out to witness he followed, and when he looked at the rock he started to make the sign of the cross and muttered aloud, “Oh my Lord!, I must stop hitting that rock with my car, please forgive me!” Then everyone started taking pictures this is mine you can judge for yourselves.
The next day my cousin wanted us to go back to the store and visit the rock again, we did and to our surprise the image was gone and the rock was just a rock. I share these stories with you because It isn’t always easy to see or feel joy, especially when we are suffering hardships, but we can experience joy if we take the time to reflect on the mysteries of God. Joy can be found in His deep love and passion for each and every one of us as though we are the only ones in the world. His love runs so deep that He had His Son birthed to earth opening up the gates of heaven so we could reign with Him forever; this is reason for Joy!!! So put aside your stress and worries of the Christmas season and be present in the moment to feel God’s love and joy waiting for you to unwrap TODAY!!!