Sunday, June 01, 2008

May -- the month of JOY!

This year we Catholics were so lucky! The Month of May is always a wonderful month as it is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus' mother. However, May 2008 was even more special: with Easter so early this year, many of the joyous feasts of the Church occurred during the month of May:
  • Ascension of the Lord -- May 1st (some dioceses, including Denver, moved this solemnity to Sunday, the 4th) -- the sad but joyous leave-taking of Jesus from his beloved apostles, disciples and his mother, Mary. He went ahead to make a place for us!

  • St. Athanasius' Feast Day -- May 2nd -- our home-learning patron and a stalwart fighter for the truth but who admonished with love and humility; not hate or pride. A joyous man who never gave up what he thought was right.

  • Pentecost Sunday -- May 11th -- 10 days after Jesus' ascension, we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the friend Jesus promised, who would help us through all our life's struggles, who would be beside us each time we try to evangelise, who would help us see the joy of our eternal life when looking at the sorrows or our earthly life. This is the birthday of the Catholic Church -- the joy is heard in the ringing of bells throughout the world.

  • Most Holy Trinity Sunday -- May 18th -- a day when we celebrate that our one God manifests Himself in three persons:
  1. God the Father who looks after us and is the epitome of what earthly fatherhood should be (mercy, justice and love),
  2. God the Son who is our brother, who took on our humanity to save US from our sins, who watches over us as an older brother always with love and joy and trust in the Father, and
  3. God the Holy Spirit who is our aid and counsel, our paraclete, our grace-giver, the one who remains with us after Jesus sits at his Father's right hand.
  • Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi Sunday) -- May 25th -- a day when we as a Church publicly acknowledge and worship the gift of Jesus, the gift of his body and blood present in the Eucharist after the consecration. This is a crazy belief for many non-Catholics -- but for Catholics, this is central to our joy and our hope, this is central to our lives in Christ. We were fortunate to have a Parish that knows how to joyfully celebrate this day: after First Holy Communion, Father placed the Host in a Monstrance and we processed in the neighborhood -- with the First Communion children in the front -- singing and praising God for his goodness and love. What a joy-filled ending to a joyous day.

  • Most Sacred Heart of Jesus -- May 30th -- a day when we celebrate the unending love Jesus has for us all ... his love for sinners and saints alike ... his love for those with bad tempers, those with pride, those who slander others ... his love for those who try to turn away from the seductivity of the earthly realm and turn instead to the beauty and joy found only in the Heavenly realm.

  • Visitation of Mary to Her Cousin Elizabeth -- May 31st -- the month ends with Mary shown as the first Christian missionary, running to her cousin to help with the birth of her cousin, running to her cousin Elizabeth to announce her own Good News ... but Elizabeth and Elizabeth's baby-in-the-womb both leap for joy because they know the baby Mary carries is destined to be the Savior of the World. This is a day when we Catholics should be joyful and joy-filled, jumping for the sheer joy of being Catholics ... of having a God who loves us and forgives us ... of having the chance every day to share this Good News with others ... of having the chance every day of starting a new, better, more Christian life for God ... of offering our sufferings, our exposure to calumny, our own sinful ways to God and asking for forgiven and grace to do better.

Catholicism is such a joyful faith ... we have:

  1. the Sacrament of Baptism when the stain of original sin is wiped clear
  2. the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we can ask God's forgiveness for our transgressions, repairing the break with the God who loves us eternally
  3. the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist where every time we partake of the Eucharist, we receive Jesus (body, soul and dinity) into our bodies
  4. the Sacrament of Confirmation where we firmly attest that we are Catholic and believe in the precepts of the faith; Confirmation is a rite of passage into a greater communion with God

These are just four of the seven sacraments ... but these four ALL Catholics are able to receive.

So now I have to try to live this life of joy -- but not on my own, but with the graces received through the participation in the Mass and the Sacraments, the consistent help of the Holy Spirit, and the everlasting mercy of God the Father.

The last few days I've been inundated with folks' criticisms, slander and calumny; I have been the brunt of others' anger and pain; I have been angry myself and gossiping about others; I have bordered on despair ... but this is not living the Catholic faith, this is not the joy that I should hold in my heart.

I MUST try to live out the words from the prophet, Zephaniah (3:14-18):

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad
and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the
judgement against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the
Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. ... The
Lord, your God, is in your midst, a might savior' He will rejoice over you with
gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you ...

This is what I need to remember ... to dance as John the Baptist danced in Elizabeth's womb ... to shout with joy, with exaltation, with love for all, especially my enemies because this is how I show God how much I love Him.

As Psalm 55 reminds us: cast your care upon the Lord, and he will support you; never will he permit the just man to be disturbed.

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