Hold on to the gift of joy this Home Mission Sunday

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13 December 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on almost every aspect of our lives – not least the way we worship together and pray as a Catholic community.

Ordinarily we would have celebrated Home Mission Sunday in September but, in 2020, we celebrate the day set aside to promote evangelisation on Gaudete Sunday – 13 December – the Third Sunday of Advent.

There may not be an abundance of joy in our hearts at this time, but Bishop Mark O’Toole tells us that we can still hold on to this fruit of the Holy Spirit through our struggles.

Bishop O’Toole is the Bishop for Mission at the Bishops’ Conference. This is his message for Home Mission Sunday.

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Joy is a great gift of the Holy Spirit.

It’s different to pleasure, you know, making sure that our bodies are warm and well-fed.

It’s different to happiness. Happiness is something which is a state of mind. It can come and go.

But joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, which has been poured into our hearts at baptism. And it never leaves us, even if we’re experiencing challenging times.

And let’s face it, 2020 has been a challenging year. It has been challenging to see so many struggle with the virus – to see support services stretched to the limit, to see so many generous people volunteering and working hard.

It has also been challenging because some of us may have experienced the loss of loved ones or their serious sickness, but throughout these different experiences of the pandemic, it has always possible for us to hold on to the gift of joy. It doesn’t necessarily mean we go round with a smiling face all the time. It’s a recognition that God loves us, that He gave His Son Jesus Christ to be our saviour – that this saviour was born in Bethlehem. And that in these weeks we prepare for his coming. So let us, with joy, spread his message to those around us.

You may well ask, how do I access the gift of joy? We access it through giving – giving time to God in prayer so that He can remind us of the gift of his Son and of the protection and guidance of the Blessed Mother – who was the woman of great joy.

We can access it through the gift of giving of our time to others – maybe visiting somebody who’s living alone or phoning a family member who we haven’t spoken to in some time. In each of these different ways we give of our time and our service and God makes real for us that gift of joy.

So, on this Home Mission Sunday, rejoice in the Lord for the Lord is near.

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