Joy is Infectious
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
We had a heavy frost in our region this past Sunday morning. We knew it was coming. It’s time - almost the middle of October - but it still was a bit of a shock. After all, the daytime temperatures have still been reaching into the 70’s, with a couple exceptions. But for those of us who are winter-deniers, reality has hit us right in the face. It’s time to do all those cleaning out and buttoning up chores which will prepare us and our surrounds for a major change in our activities and perhaps in our moods.
For sure, there are some who embrace the cold and look forward to snow and ice and all that entails. I have known a few of these, but not many. These are otherwise good, level-headed people who have this character flaw which causes them to like snow. I can admit to admiring the first large flakes of snow each year; those which come after I am secure in my home with no place else I have to be. These can be admired when the power remains on and we can be warm and comfy in our surroundings. Yet, I can visualize my snow loving friends scrambling for their snow suits and galoshes, giggling excitedly as they anticipate their venture into this winter wonderland, and I can only feel sorry for these suffering with such a malady.
Yet, I find myself intrigued by these who are eagerly embracing the change in weather and who are exhilarated by its challenges as well as its promises, even as they expect me to be equally enthusiastic as they encourage me into this unwelcoming world. Soon, almost without knowing it, I will have dug out long forgotten winter clothing, bundled myself up in everything I think will keep my warm, and venture out.
Isn’t this the way it is when we try to introduce someone to Christianity? Just telling them about it seldom is sufficient to get them to step into a world unfamiliar to them. Understand, the Gospel doesn’t make sense to them; after all, their world can’t understand the miraculous and the spiritual, the selfless and the sacrificial. Their world teaches a different path for their lives, and a different purpose: one which leans on instant gratification, and expects immediate rewards.
What is difficult to convey to a non-believer is the truth that there is more to life than the immediate. There is another dimension awaiting: one of love and joy and peace, and it is eternal. How can we explain that life begins with death, -- death to self? Life is assured when we yield our lives to the Lord and willingly submit to Him as a slave to a master. How do we share the message of selfless service with those who think the world owes them a living?
The answer is, “we don’t.” We don’t tell them. We show them. Like my friends who may entice me to bundle up and come out to enjoy the snow and the cold, it is in seeing Christians enjoying life, embracing each other, finding purpose in service to one another and to the world. It is in living our lives as examples of how Jesus taught us to live that is most effective in reaching the skeptics and the non-believers. As it has been said, “Christianity is better caught than taught.”
After all, who is going to want to join an organization rife with gloomy members, those seemingly worn down and burnt out? Who wants to embrace a message which begins with “Thou shalt not” rather that to hear and see, love, kindness, compassion, and mercy? No, it is when we demonstrate that “joy in the Lord is our strength,” and with the conviction that “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life” that others will want to venture into something different, something new.
Let’s go out and “infect” a few doubters with our enthusiasm and our joy in the Lord.
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