A reason for our hope, evidence of our joy

    December 17, 2023
    Advent reflection day 15 graphic. Watercolor brush strokes of Christmas tree branches in white and pale green.

    Today is Gaudete Sunday, the “Sunday of joy,” as Pope Francis refers to it. Gaudete is symbolized by the color rose. We see that reflected in the celebrant’s vestments and the color of the candle in our Advent wreath that we light today. Rose. Joy. Rejoicing.

    For any number of reasons — personal losses or struggles, societal injustices, violence in the world, or the suffering of so many in our midst — we may not be particularly inclined toward joy right now. Then what do we make of the injunction to be joyful, as constitutive of being a person of faith, especially when our hearts might not be in it?

    It helps to draw the distinction between happiness, which is contingent on external circumstances, and joy, which is conditioned by interior disposition. For the person of faith, this spiritual disposition of joy is only possible in response to one fundamental question: Do you believe in a loving God who loves you just for who you are, unconditionally and unfailingly? The answer to that question will set the conditions for an interior life of joy, even and especially, in the midst of profound suffering.

    At Catholic Charities, we bear witness to the suffering of humankind — hunger, unemployment, mental illness, forced migration, the need for safe shelter, poverty, loneliness, and anxiety. And every day, Catholic Charities staff and volunteers alleviate that suffering by providing food, safe shelter, job training, mental health counseling, hospitality, and hope.

    The first reading for today is evocative of the life-giving work to which Catholic Charities is called:

    The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
    because the LORD has anointed me;
    he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
    to heal the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and release to the prisoners…
    in my God is the joy of my soul.

    To all who belong to the Catholic Charities family, thank you for being a reason for our hope, and evidence of our joy.

    Kerry Alys Robinson is President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. She loves her job.

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