“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!”
The verse quoted above deserves some time of quality reflection, especially dur- ing troubling times when the circumstances seem oriented toward us taking our eyes off the Lord Jesus and staring instead at those circumstances that con- spire to rob us of our joy. I am reminded of one of my favorite cartoons. A little old lady is standing next to a very disheveled and beaten up demon–broken horns, black eyes, etc. She is explaining to her friend: “He tried to steal my joy! ”Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we took as effective and deliberate a response to the joy thieves in our lives!
The danger is that, when we are presented with an attempt by the snake to rob our joy, our fallen nature almost automatically moves to agreement; the perpetual invitation to wallow in the “ain’t it awfuls” can find too ready a hearing in our wounded hearts. But the King has a better idea: stay focused on Him and let the power of the Holy Spirit minister to us the truth of the Scripture that “The joy of the Lord is our strength!” This takes focus; this takes self-discipline; this takes discernment–especially discernment to understand when what we are being given is, in fact, a temptation. Some simple questions may help us in that discernment process. Does this attitude glorify the Lord Jesus? Does it build the Kingdom? Does it reflect the attitude of a life of faith lived in service to Him? Does it suitably honor those made in the image and likeness of God? Is it reflective of the nature of the Sacred Heart of our King, Who, as our Gospel points out, has a particular desire to assist us when we cry to Him for mercy?
We can make it even more personal by regularly reflecting on those ways in which we personally can proclaim that “The Lord has done great things for us!” I have found it very useful to keep a spiritual journal, keeping track of the different ways in which the Lord Jesus has been present, answered prayer, healed, or other- wise manifested His presence in my life. When we thank and honor Him for the many things that He has done for us, we anchor ourselves more securely in His providential care. When we open the door to the One Who knocks, we are choosing the best path for ourselves and those we love. In that regard, even as He did for the blind man in the Gospel, we are encouraged: “Get up, He is calling you!”
He calls every day do we take the time to listen? Do we especially take time to listen to Him through His Word, immersing ourselves in the Word of life that it may instruct us in His ways and ever more deeply show us Who He is and how much He loves us?! Hopefully we have learned, like Bartimaeus, how “vulnerable” the Sacred Heart of our King is to our cries for mercy and pity. Hopefully we are not afraid of His response, because we know, as the Scripture reminded us, that “He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring.” We are also reminded that, “even when we sow in tears,” the time will come when we too will be able “to reap rejoicing!”
Last weekend, I visited a few of the churches of our sister parish in Flint. There have been great struggles in that city on a variety of fronts, struggles that continue to this day. However, I found a great many people, even in spite of the difficulties, worshipping the King with joy in their hearts! Many were also very grateful for the help that their community is receiving from you, the people of Christ the King. They were particularly grateful for the help we give to support those who are ministering to them, especially the Servants of God’s Love. The Sisters are doing an amazing job, truly living up to their exalted name! It was a blessing to my heart to see folks who are truly living in very challenging situations, but who are still able to be joyfully proclaiming that the Lord has done great things for them! (It helped me to soberly reassess whether I was too often yielding to the “ain’t it awfuls”!)
The King reigns and loves us beyond words! Let us allow His Spirit to fill us with joy as we continue to say “Yes” to Him! – Fr. Ed Fride