Can you recall moments when you have experienced joy?

Readings: Is. 66.10-14, Ps. 66, Gal. 6.14-18, Lk. 10.1-20

Rejoice! The first and third readings today urge us to rejoice. The word rejoice in its various forms appears well over 400 times in the Scriptures. Obviously God wants us to rejoice. Joy is different from happiness, pleasure, comfort, and peace. Joy is defined as "the emotional response to the experience of harmony." Can you recall various moments when you have experienced joy? … When have you felt in harmony with God, family, friends, nature? ….

This past week I flew to Michigan to meet with the priest whom I will be replacing on September 1. On the plane, in the seat directly in front of me was a young mother with two children, a girl probably one and a half years old, and a boy probably three years old. In the row of three seats, the mother buckled the girl into the aisle seat, and the boy into the window seat. She sat between them. The girl behaved very well for the entire flight. The boy was a different story; he was a handful.

He had countless questions about the plane, the snack, the people in front of him and the people in back of him. He was very good; he was very curious. His mother started to play with him the game "Simon Says." She said, "Simon says, ‘Sit still;’" "Simon says, ‘listen;’" and "Simon says, ‘close your eyes and rest.’" The boy generally listened well and obeyed his mother. A couple of times she leaned over and snuggled her head into his chest. Both mother and son laughed.

As I watched the mother and child on the plane, it struck me that most of us adults, myself included, don’t appreciate the love, care and sacrifices which a mother makes until we ourselves grow up and become mothers or fathers, or aunts or uncles.

Similarly, the communication, verbal and non-verbal, between mother and son may be viewed as an image of the relationship between God and each of us. God loves us, instructs us and knows what is best for us, but we sometimes question legitimately but disobey unfortunately. Yet God continues to love us. God has entered into our space and has demonstrated his love for us by sending us Jesus, founding the church, instituting the seven sacraments, and giving us mothers and fathers. It takes us a long time to appreciate how much God loves us.

God is always addressed as Father, by Jesus and throughout both testaments. Interestingly and importantly, the metaphor of a mother is used about ten times mostly in the Old Testament to describe the activity of God. God is like a mother bear protecting her cubs, like a mother eagle feeding her young, like a mother hen gathering her chicks. God is like a mother in labor who sacrifices in giving birth to her offspring, like a mother who lifts up her children and affectionately presses them against her cheek, and leans over lovingly to nurse her children.

I want to close with one of my favorite sayings which I use at most weddings: "As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. … I have told you this so that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be complete." (Jn. 15.10-12) Please take a few moments to reflect on the joy which you experience with God, family, friends and through nature. Rejoice in what God does for you in the past, present and future. And as today’s gospel says, "rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley