REFLECTION: Being peaceful and joyful in the midst of difficulties

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

We’ve all had bad days once in a while, I’m sure. When we do, we sometimes feel a little bit grumpy or out of sorts. It doesn’t really help, I don’t think, for someone to come along and say, “Be happy! Rejoice! Everything’s going to be okay.” You don’t feel that way at all. That’s sort of what happens in today’s Scriptures. Only if we listen to them carefully, we discover that there’s an underlying reason why, even in the midst of difficulties and struggles, we can still be joyful.

AdventIn fact, it makes me think of Jesus at the Last Supper. He knows what’s going to happen, ready to undergo his most terrible passion and death, humiliation, suffering, and torture. Yet, at one point if you remember, Jesus says to the disciples, “I tell you all this (he’d been speaking to them at length) so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” So it is possible that even when things on sort of an external level are not going well, deep within us there can be a spirit of deep joy, a sense of peace. How could that happen?

Our lessons today, I think, help us to understand. In the first lesson, the Chosen People had been under very bad leadership. A couple of the kings were turning to idol worship and leading the people away from the true God. There were corruptions throughout the whole people of Israel. Then they had gone to war against God’s wishes, finally been defeated, and carried off into exile. It was a time of terrible struggle and suffering, and the leadership was not of much help at all.

But there was a remnant, a few who remained very faithful to God. It was to those few that Zephaniah then spoke in our first lesson because they had been faithful to God and as Zephaniah pointed out, they had experienced God’s presence in their own person during that time of exile. Things were chaotic and terrible all around them, but the few, the remnant, had been able to stay close to God. Because of that, God was going to bring them out of exile.

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