Finding Christmas Joy

From Jim Harnish, retired pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist in Tampa.

The Christmas tree business is booming! It’s evidently one way people are finding joy in this strange, COVID-infected season.  The New York Times reported:

This year, with parties and vacations largely cancelled, one source of holiday cheer remains in tact: Christmas trees. Americans are buying the trees in droves and the farms that produce them are struggling to keep up.

So, what’s your “source of holiday cheer”?

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Choosing Joy

Earlier today I posted my homily for this 3rd Sunday in Advent. I noted that I like words, especially know their etymology, that is, their origin and development. I gave two examples (“peruse” and “egregious”) of words that have an original meaning, but human uses and circumstances change how we perceive and use the words. I went on to describe the word “joy” in that same context; how smush “joy,” “happiness,” and other synonyms into a generic sameness. But how Christians are to understand and live joy is different that “happiness.” How different? I will leave it to you to read the earlier post.

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Mindfulness and Joy

One of the “silver linings” in the pandemic is that it has increased people’s mindfulness about thanking others. Reports have indicated that people are sending digital and postal service cards and letters to thank folks. That is now that things have settled out a bit. In the early days when the “sheltering in place” orders came out our fears and anxieties were too much in the forefront of our minds. My point is that we can look to our own recent experience to understand the transition from the early days of Covid-19 to days of sheltered in place and new normal. As we no longer “strain against the way things are” we find a certain degree of freedom, and then our minds wander to the essentials. And saying “thank you” is right there at the top of the list. Continue reading

Swallowed up in Victory

Our gospel highlights the three spiritual practices of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The readings all warn of not being gloomy about it all, not being ostentatious so that you’re sure to be noticed, and not to announce your generosity so that all might acknowledge your faithful giving. It calls into question not the tradition of the Lenten practices, but the meaning, intention, and purpose you assign to your practice. Continue reading

Where is the joy?

This weekend Deacon Bill Garret is preaching at all the Masses on behalf of the local Tampa Cristo Rey School. This is a reposting of a homily from Dec 2013.

It is Gaudete Sunday. The name comes from wording in Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! While there is evident joy in the first readings and the Psalm, and a call for patience in the second reading, the gospel is not one that I would immediately connect with joy.  It seems to me this is a Sunday whose very name asks us, “What gives you joy?  What is the source of joy in your life?”  A good question. Continue reading

Of the same mind

Have you heard the phrase, “Don’t be a thermometer, be a thermostat”? A thermometer reads the temperature of the room and responds to it. A thermostat sets the temperature.

Are you setting the spiritual temperature of the room? Or do you find yourself constantly responding to how your kids are acting (and are you letting that determine the kind of parent you will be)? Are you basing the kind of spouse you are today on your husband or wife’s mood? Are you responsive to the virtue – or lack thereof – in your workplace, and letting that determine how you interact with the people around you? Continue reading

Ash Wednesday – thoughts

Our gospel highlights the three spiritual practices of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The readings all warn of not being gloomy about it all, not being ostentatious so that you’re sure to be noticed, and not to announce your generosity so that all might acknowledge your faithful giving. It calls into question not the tradition of the Lenten practices, but the meaning, intention, and purpose you assign to your practice. Continue reading

Choosing Joy

I love the way the first reading from Zephaniah speaks about God: “He will rejoice over you with gladness…he will sing joyfully because of you.” (Zep 3:17-18).  Because of you. Because of me. This divine joy is the very nature of God – creative; like an overflowing fountain – a fountain fullness. A joy that wants to be shared in wider and wider circles. A joy that asks us to join in the OT reading and the Psalm too – both telling us to shout for joy. The words of the second reading are the hallmark of Guadette Sunday: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: rejoice.From God to us, it is a call for a universal chorus of joy. Continue reading

Finding Joy

I like words, their origin (or etymology if you prefer) and the ways in words affect people – and people affect words. Such as the word “peruse” which people understand to mean “glance over, skim,” etc. Yet originally the word means (and I would argue still does) to read completely and in exacting detail. Another interesting word whose meaning has done an about face is “egregious.” Today it means to be conspicuous or flagrant – and almost always in a negative sense. Yet the origin of the word from the Latin ex-“out of” and greg- “flock” to give us egregius “illustrious” or in a more modern sense, “outstanding.” Somewhere in the late 16th century the word was increasingly used in an ironic sense, until that usage became it every day meaning. Continue reading

What gives you Joy?

FindingJoyDuring the holiday season with winter storms roaring about, one can be quite happy that the airplane finally got off the ground; yesterday in Chicago, 1000 flights were cancelled. So if you got airborne, you were indeed happy. A new round of happiness came when the pilot finally found smooth air. And even if it was 6 hours late, you are happy that you have arrived.  When you finally get off the plane, pass thru security, and at last see your spouse, your kids, your parents or grandparents, your fiancé, or whomever you have longed to see…. that is not happy. That is Joy.  You hear it in the tone and energy of the voices, the embraces, and the hugs.  And even when the reunion is right in the middle of everyone else’s way, when the reunion is clogging up the entire flow of foot traffic trying to get somewhere, you can’t help but notice even the most curmudgeon-y of travelers, however reluctantly, is giving evidence of a smile. Joy is embedded in the warp and woof, in the very fabric of relationships.  Just like Mary and Elizabeth. Continue reading