Yesterday, we heard readings from the Prophet Zepheniah, the Apostle Paul, and the Evangelist Luke (you can read all three here).
Zepheniah and Paul both begin similarly:
“SHOUT FOR JOY!” -Zepheniah
“REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!” -Paul
Both writers are addressing audiences who are experiencing suffering in the moment. Zepheniah’s audience is the Hebrew people in the midst of Exile. They and their families have been displaced by the Babylonian empire. They are scattered, and are being persecuted. There is no logical reason for shouting for joy.
Similarly, Paul is writing his letter to the Philippians from prison. The entire letter is referred to as the “Letter of Joy” – and, again, there is no external reason for Paul to be rejoicing and encouraging others to do the same.
What else do these readings have in common? The authors recognize that the LORD is in their midst! And that Truth remains for us today. The LORD is in our midst! Truly, how can we keep from shouting with joy?
The Gospel of Luke tells us about John the Baptist’s ministry. John gives sound advice when they ask him what they should do to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Share your clothing and food! Do your job honestly! Be satisfied! Essentially, John the Baptist is asking us to be merciful – and Pope Francis is asking us to do the same today.
Together, these readings remind us that our JOY is tied up with our works of MERCY. In the spirit of joy-filled mercy, I bring you the following story of our work at Catholic Charities WV:
At Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa), we facilitate John’s command to share our resources. One of our ministries in various locations throughout the state is the Personal Care closet. It is difficult for some of our clients to purchase products such as soap, deodorant, and cleaning supplies, which are expensive. Our clients’ priorities are food, rent and utilities.
The mother of two school-age daughters said about the Closet, “Now my girls can go to school with clean shining hair and have clean clothes to wear.” Items from our personal care pantry allow people to ‘fit in’ – especially children who may be the target of ridicule. It takes very little to change attitudes and self-esteem; sometimes just a bar of soap can make a huge difference.
Thank you for your support of Catholic Charities WV! As the LORD told the people of Zepheniah’s time, we “sing joyfully because of you”!