By ZOE CANNON
GRATITUDE FOR THE GIFT OF FAITH
The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
In the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah, we read about his finding joy after much suffering in captivity. Nehemiah was the Jewish leader from the 5th century BC. He supervised the rebuilding of Jerusalem and restored the spiritual lives of the Jews following their exile in Babylon. Nehemiah prayed for the discernment of God’s holy will and followed God’s call to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. He knew exactly what he had to do and, like Jesus in the New Testament, he got busy doing the work of God the Father. There are many Old Testament examples of God’s Word pointing to Jesus.
The prayer from Nehemiah to God could be ours today: “Please, Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps the covenant and faithfulness for those who love Him and keep His commandments: let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open, to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have committed against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses” (Nehemiah 1:5-7).
In the New Testament letters from Paul to the Philippians, there is a dominant theme about the importance of happiness. “Rejoice in the Lord always; I shall say it again, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). The word joy and rejoice are mentioned 16 times in the Epistle, where Paul is expressing gratitude for the Church in Philippi. The Philippians were strong supporters of Paul’s ministry. How are you building up the Kingdom of God today?
We are all called to be disciples of Jesus by accepting the mission of the Church, which is to help one another get to heaven! The spiritual meaning of joy communicates the goodness of God. This requires a deep-rooted and very intentional type of happiness! However, it is sometimes difficult to be cheerful in a disordered world.
Both Nehemiah and Paul spent their lives restoring the Church when it met opposition or was confronted by injustice. God uses all kinds of people to achieve His plans on earth. When Nehemiah heard about the state of the temple in Jerusalem, he fasted and prayed. He didn’t sit around and complain, but decided to get busy; and in love, he encouraged others to do the same.
I believe our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that are central to the teachings of Jesus. If these matters are not important enough in our own lives – and we do not speak up, support, or guide the lost – then the light of Christ in our soul will not shine. Our hope of eternal life fades away when we are not following Jesus. I find that joy always radiates a sense of purpose and hope. What brings joy into your life?
Our grandsons play basketball. When we walk in the gymnasium and look across the floor, we find waves with big smiles from our grandsons, as if they were waiting for us to arrive. We cannot help them with their skills on the court, but being there to encourage and cheer is so important. Supporting them in all their activities is very special, but teaching our grandchildren religion and helping to prepare them for each sacrament gives me the greatest joy! I love watching them grow in knowledge of faith and Church teaching. I will never take for granted an opportunity to share my faith because I know the joy of the Lord is my strength! Amen!