In today’s Gospel reading, seventy disciples return with joy and tell Jesus all that they had done. I am sure Jesus was tickled at their enthusiasm. As I drove home tonight, I was telling Jesus about what had happened too during a presentation on prayer that I had given–as if he was not even there. I know that he already knew but I was still excited about how it went and even my self-criticism did not take the joy away. I was aware that the Spirit had moved powerfully through me and I was so grateful. I just wanted him to know that I knew that he was at the centre of that talk and that the outcome was beautiful for me too. I can imagine those disciples telling Jesus story after story of healing, and Jesus nodding with a smile, delighted in their amazement at the work of the Trinity. Joy is generated in these moments and hearts expand with Love.
In the First Reading, the stump of Jesse springs a shoot and the Spirit of the Lord rests upon him. The gift of the message is that the Spirit also rests upon us, which is why we can also return with joy when we do the work of the Lord. The glorious images of the wolf living with the lamb, the leopard laying down with the kid and the calf and the lion being together, all led by a little child fill our hearts with utter joy. Such hope seems ludicrous and yet longed for so completely! Such is the outcome when we do the work of the Lord. It is not ours, but yet we are mysteriously the vessel through which Good comes.
I am part of a small prayer group that is reading Tattoo on My Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle and earlier tonight we met to discuss the first part of this amazing book in the light of the ministries that we carry out–most of us volunteer with thugs and hoodlums, just like in this book. We live with the lamb and the wolf at moments in these ministries of presence. Hope sometimes seems ludicrous and ridiculous in the ministries of working with inmates or homeless people. Yet we return with joy and tell one another and Jesus all about it. We are changed as much as we change. We are healed equally as healing. We are blessed by the Spirit as we bless in the name of Christ. During this Advent waiting, pay attention to the times of returning with joy to an event that happened as you review your day. Let the little Child lead your heart to joy.