Today is the so called gaudete Sunday in advent. The antiphon at the beginning said: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice." Then the Collect: "enable us to attain the joys of so great a salvation and to celebrate glad rejoicing". The first reading: "shout for joy" and "He will exult with joy over you". The second: "I want you to be happy".
How can we be filled with joy? People asked John the Baptist something similar: "When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’"
Last Friday night I visited Archbishop Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. During the conversation he said at a certain point: “Possession is where a lot goes wrong. We do not possess anything. Everything is given and needs to be given again.” On my way back to Maidenhead at night I was reviewing facts from the last few days. Many of them confirm and are a testimony of this, that, as Jesus said, there is more joy in giving than in receiving.
On Friday my agenda was manic. I was tempted to cancel my visit to a care home together with pupils from our school. Then I thought: why precisely should that visit be cancelled? I went. There I saw pupils learning how to open their heart to elderly that they didn't see before and won't see again, parents offering lifts with a radiant face, the manager of the house offering two chairs to the parish out of gratitude: 28 years ago one of our teachers offered her friendship while she was homesick.
The day before, before meeting some volunteers of the parish, I went to visit a new family among us. The mother, who works in a company, asked me to give her some voluntary work.
The whole week was filled with contacts with people who want to help in the different rotas in the parish: some new altar servers, some new EM, some new people counting money after mass, some people bringing money to the bank, some people offering to lock and unlock the church. Really overwhelming and humbling.
Yesterday I saw Catechists giving their Saturday morning to the First Holy Communion children, then a lunch served by two to forty people. In between a fellow priest wrote me an email offering the timeshare of his mum in a hotel.
I cannot explain such a symphony of love out of an effort of generosity. So many faces full of joy because they are giving their life to their children, to their pupils, serving the parish community or the wider community. I can explain so much giving, only out of having received so much.