On Finding Welcome and Joy

Being welcomed into a gathering makes all the difference in whether we feel comfortable or ill at ease. Imagine hearing someone say: “You’re not welcome here.” As a reporter attending various meetings over the years, I have been unceremoniously ejected from them occasionally, and when it happens, it’s a bit jarring. Since it was part of the job, I didn’t take it personally. In retrospect, perhaps I should have.

However, as Catholic Christians it is our joy and our responsibility to welcome people and make them feel comfortable. We should not be among those who point fingers at others because they are somehow different from us. At least that, I believe, is the way we should behave. We are not the people who should scold others, take on the role of the self righteous and castigate others for the faults we assume they have while denying or failing to recognize  we might have any faults at all.

Instead of seeing the negative, we would be happier if we looked for the positive, the joy in life. Pope Francis urges us to look for joy.

“The identification card of a Christian is joy: the joy of the Gospel, the joy of having been elected by Jesus, saved by Jesus, regenerated by Jesus. (It is) the joy of the hope that Jesus is waiting for us, the joy that — even in the crosses and in the sufferings of this life — is expressed in a different way, which is having peace in the certainty that Jesus accompanies us; that he is with us,” he said.

When we see so much sadness, so much suffering both close to us, perhaps in our families, or in the world where so many things go wrong, it is difficult to see joy, to live joyfully. Yet, when we insist on looking for the positive in our world, we will find it. Sometimes we give up too soon because it’s easier to be negative, to find what’s wrong with the world and with everyone else rather than seeing what others have to offer and how our world does some things right.

Being joyful takes work for some of us. We need to refuse to buy into the “everything’s wrong and nothing’s right” syndrome prevalent in many circles. Every day is a new opportunity to make a change, to make ourselves or our world better, happier, more inclusive than it was yesterday. Sometimes that requires great faith and determination because believing that everything can be better takes courage. It also takes action. Just wanting something to be better or filled with joy will not make it so. If we want the world to be welcoming, we need to step up and take a chance that it will work.

When we find joy, we also find renewal and enthusiasm for life that may have been elusive in the past. And we must never forget to celebrate the people who bring us our joy — families, friends, co-workers, the people we meet for the first time and those we’ve known for many years. We’re all connected; we’re all a part of this joy, so roll out the welcome mat and be joyful.