I fully expected to do a little dancing inside the prison today. Alas, it was not to be.
A computer malfunction led to the cancellation of our monthly Kairos reunion at Menard…so we won’t get to experience the curious joy that comes with celebrating Christmas a little early inside the walls.
As often as I’ve been there, it still surprises me a little to find that God’s mercy reigns inside Menard…that God’s name is praised there…and that, yes, sometimes we even break into a bit of dancing. Odd as it sounds, I was actually looking forward to spending a few hours of my Saturday in Chester.
Instead, I have some ‘found time’ on my hands.
Time I can turn toward reflection—and immediately I notice that my mind and heart are drawn toward Joy: the central theme we always celebrate on the Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday.
It’s a joy tinged with mercy, according to the words we hear from the prophet Zephanaiah in Sunday’s first reading:
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart…
The LORD has removed the judgment against you.
Mercy: ‘The LORD has removed the judgment against you.’ What a great deal! And the Lord’s clemency, no doubt, helps to explain how and why my incarcerated Kairos brothers can find reason to smile.
But it’s not just mercy that’s at work in this holy season. It’s not just mercy that stimulates our joy. Zephaniah says we can celebrate presence, too.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst…
God will sing joyfully because of you
as one sings at festivals.
Imagine that: God enjoys our company. And not only does God choose to be with us—but the next thing you know, there’s a party going on!
Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our minds around that notion—but if I need proof, I think back to what our daughter says about the time she spent at the Child Jesus School in Petit Goave, Haiti, a few years ago. The children she met there—among the poorest in the world—somehow could not hide their joy. They kept breaking into song and dance. As she wrote in her blog, it became a cherished part of her experience. ‘Could you be here, Jesus, in the flow of Haiti time? Could you be in the singing and dancing, in the mountains, and the sun, and the beach?’
So I guess you could say I’ve been blessed in an unexpected way by my ‘found time’ today. I’ve been offered a little reminder: Gaudete Sunday is a great time to get reacquainted with this God who walks among us. The God who dances with us…and shares our every joy.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.