Real joy

If we wish to experience real joy, we ought to listen to those who are fearlessly admonishing us to change

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (Cycle A)

A sacred season typically filled with joy such as Christmas, may call our attention to the nature and the reasons for such happiness: Are we immersed in a joy caused by an increase in material abundance, or a joy caused by a rejuvenation of our spiritual souls? Are we happy because of what we are receiving from others, or of what we are committed to continuously give to others? Is our joy the result of a satiation of wishes and desires for the “here and now,” or is it in anticipation of a more glorious end for our world?

Like the Baptist who became the embodiment of vigilance in patiently waiting for the coming of the One who will help “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers to be made clean, the deaf hear, the dead to be brought back to life, and the poor to hear the good news,” our Christmas joy must be filled with the same hope that one day, the kingdom of justice and peace will be accomplished. We experience real joy when we fully trust our Lord is continuing – and will continue until the end – to lovingly work with us in helping “all the oppressors to see the violence in their ways; all the oppressed to walk once more in dignity; all those forsaken to be made clean and brought back into normal social life; and all those in doubt to hear and understand the divine commandments of love and responsibility.”

And so, the wastelands brought about by our indifference, irresponsibility and evil, will be transformed. Amid the barrenness of our alienation and discontent, we will “rejoice … and blossom, seeing the glory of our God … demanding justice.” In returning to him, “vigor” will be given to “weary hands,” “strength to enfeebled knees,” and “courage … to those who are afraid.” Indeed, we ought to be happy, for we are looking forward to a beautiful consummation. 

But it is also an end we have to work hard for; an end we can only achieve with the Spirit, if we persevere in “changing our hearts.” There is no other path to real joy. 

Are we always “expecting to see” false messiahs promising to “save” us from our problems, promoting all sorts of “solutions,” thereby assuring us of the “guilt-free happiness we all deserve?” Genuine prophets are persistent and disturbing persons, sent by the Spirit to truthfully point out that we are actually the “solutions” to the problems we have burdened ourselves with. 

We are always feeling uncomfortable with what they say or do, because they defy our sense of pride and self-righteousness. That is why we will never recognize them, and if we do, we tend to reject them. We do not listen to people like John, who are constantly warning us with the ominous request to “prepare a way for the Lord”, and to repent, for “the kingdom … is at hand.” We do not listen to people like Jesus, who will keep on chastising our hypocrisy in claiming to be “sinless” and our propensity to destroy those whom we deem to be more “sinful” than us. We do not listen to people like the saints, whose “example of patience” bore witness to sufferings at the hands of those who do evil, yet whose deaths marked instead their eternal victory over their forgotten persecutors. Simply said, we do not listen to people reminding us of our shortcomings and recalcitrance.

- Newsletter -

If we wish to experience real joy, we ought to listen to those who are fearlessly admonishing us to change, to become humble like them, bearing with the faults of the world, so that we “do not fight among ourselves.” We ought to live this life of the Christ with tenacity, while staying alert and “not losing heart,” waiting in hopeful patience for justice and peace to reign forever.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of

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