Weekly Reflection: The Joy of the Lord

By Fr. Mike Boutin

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child, whom he placed among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes a humble place -- becoming like this child -- is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. "If anyone causes one of these little ones -- those who believe in me -- to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were drowned in the depths of the sea...(Matthew 18:1-6)

Listen to Jars of Clay sing Like a Child. Great song, great band, and great message! Smile and sing a long!

I was watching some schoolchildren from our parish playing outdoors during recess recently. Kids sure know how to play! They laugh and giggle and seem to have an ever-expanding circle of friends that always manages to make room for the rather forlorn kid (that was me!), standing off on the sidelines waiting to be invited into the circle... Kids know how to celebrate, to laugh, and to be joyous together!

Or consider this: a little baby bounces on her mother's lap...smiling and laughing and "googoogaga-ing" with everyone around her. What is it about babies -- their sounds, their smells -- that is so evocative to people?

Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he told his disciples, "Let the little children come to me, for to just such as these does the Kingdom of Heaven belong."  If we believe that God has really saved us through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus, then why don't our faces show it?

Sometimes I wonder why anyone would ever want to become a Christian.  Have you ever studied a lot of "redeemed" faces?  There are some pretty "holier than thou" Christians whose faces would crack if they ever smiled. What Good News is that, really?

How do we live like little children so that we can experience the joy of the Father's Kingdom of peace and love and justice?  How do the problems of this world not so overwhelm us that we can still experience laughter and joy every day, the way a child does with her parents, or children do in the schoolyard?

Real joy is found in the little things: a good cup of coffee (Costa Rican, freshly ground, and brewed with spring water works for me!), guilty pleasures like chocolate, a long hot bath, an evening with friends or family, singing along to music in the car or in the shower at the top of your lungs, a hug from your mother or your beloved, a funny movie (Christmas Story, with the leg lamp, always makes me laugh), a beautiful sunset (they tell me that's true for sunrises as well, but that means I'd need to get up early to see one of those!), jumping through rain puddles, walking the dog, reading a book, and especially encountering the Risen Jesus in the scriptures, the sacraments, and the silence of prayer.

Joy comes in lots of little nearly imperceptible ways, but it does come, in the midst of the struggles and the hardships and the difficulties of every day life...

Joy comes...because God is with us....Christ is risen...we are redeemed...

So today, smile, and laugh...and pray....

Father Mike Boutin is the co-pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Walpole, MA, and travels widely, leading pilgrimages throughout the world to various Catholic religious sites. He is a frequent speaker on liturgy, music, spirituality, and pastoral ministry.

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