When St. Paul spoke to the people of Philippi (in modern Turkey) he asked them to do something which they would have naturally found very difficult. They were to REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS. This wasn’t a simple request...it was just about a command. Against their better judgment...and indeed against their experiences.. they were to act joyfully . How could they? They were overwhelmed by the opposition they were experiencing from many of their fellow Philippians. They, through their new-found faith, believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah promised for generations to the Jewish people. They felt the pain of rejection, often from those they had known and loved all their lives. But...if their faith was to mean anything, it would involve acceptance of rejection...joyfully moving forward towards the Jesus to whom they had committed their lives through their Baptism.
Modern Catholics know something of this kind of rejection. If we cling to our faith, we accept that not everyone will understand...that many will see our faith as idiotic, meaningless, mindless. Such a reaction can hurt..especially coming from those we might love or even admire. But our faith gives us the kind of LIGHT...which comes from the ONE who is LIGHT. Such a faith urges us to reach out to the unbelievers...accept them...love them... HE lights up our lives...and gives us every reason to be joyful against all the odds.
May the Jesus whom we know and love be our Light and our Joy as we prepare to celebrate His Birthday this Christmas.