December 11.  3rd Sunday of Advent A. Theme: Joy.   Read and share on a story of Joy from The Little Flower of St Francis.     One day in winter, as St Francis with Brother Leo was walking from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels they were suffering greatly from the cold. St Francis said to Brother Leo, “let me tell you about perfect joy. Write down what I say. If the friars were pleasing God by giving a great example of holiness in all countries, that would not be perfect joy.” A little while later he gave another example. “If the Friars Minor could make the lame walk, the deaf speak, chase away demons and raise people from the dead, that too would not be perfect joy.”  St Francis gave many other examples; knowing languages, being versed in science, Scripture and prophecy, or speaking with the tongues of angels, explaining the stars, knowing all about the earth, plants, birds, fish, animals and people and had great gifts of preaching, noting that none of these would be perfect joy.” 

Brother Leo then asked, “Father teach me where to find perfect joy.”   So St Francis answered, “If when we arrive at St Mary of the Angels, drenched with rain, trembling with cold, covered with mud and exhausted from hunger and knock at the gate, if the porter would come angrily and demand who we were and we told him we are brothers and he refused to accept us and open the gate, leaving us outside in the snow and rain till nightfall – then if we accept such injustice, cruelty and contempt with patience, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us and God is making him speak like that, then that is perfect joy.   If we knock again and again and entreat him with tears but the porter rejects us, rolls us in the snow and beats us with a knotted stick, if we bear these injuries with patience and joy thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord which we can share out of love for him, write down Brother Leo that is perfect joy.  

Now listen to the conclusion. “Greater than all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ all suffering, injury and contempt.  For in all other gifts we cannot glory because they are gifts from God as the Apostle Paul reminds us. But we may glory in the cross of tribulation and suffering, because as the Apostle says, ‘I will not glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is where I will find perfect joy.”    

Scripture: Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.  Behold the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.   James 5:7-10.  Pope Francis:   We come together to take charge of this home, which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast.   Let us sing as we go.   May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope. LS 244   For reflection and sharing:   As family members discuss and share on your understanding of pure joy. Is joy the same as happiness?