Gaudete in Domino semper (Rejoice in the Lord always)

The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free. – Psalm 146:7-7

We can often become so concerned with our own lives that it is difficult to find joy. In those moments God frequently puts people in our midst who awaken us to what it means to by truly joyful. This morning after Mass at St. Pius V in St. Louis I went downstairs to the parish hall to enjoy a doughnut after a long week of exams. I felt tired and rather annoyed at the fact that the rest of my day would be spent studying for two more exams.

A parishioner sat down next to me and told me about “his new family.” Intrigued, I asked him what he meant. He replied, “Oh, I have been driving people to Mass each Sunday. I have a new family this week.” He pointed across the room to an African woman with her three children. I quickly realized that this man worked for the parish’s Immigrant and Refugee ministry and that his “new family” were refugees. “Where is she from?” I asked. “Kenya, I think.” One of the other brothers and I walked over to introduce ourselves.

The woman, named Adol, is from South Sudan, a relatively new African nation that won independence from Sudan in 2011. The country has been locked in civil war for the last few years, causing over half a million people to flee. She met her husband at a refugee camp Kenya, and they had three children. A few years ago they began the long process of applying for refugee status, and this past September the family was relocated to St. Louis. Despite all of this upheaval in their lives Adol smiled at her children, grateful for all that God had done for them.

That is what we celebrate this Gaudete Sunday: That God chose to enter into the turmoil of human history in order to secure justice for the oppressed, give food to the hungry, and set captives free. Adol’s simple smile reminded me that even in the midst of suffering and difficulty we are able to choose hope. Hope is a person: Jesus Christ, whose coming we await.