Good evening! (Or good morning depending on when this reaches an Internet source.)
I have been in Benque, Belize for almost 8 full days with this wonderful (and so, so strange) team that SOLT has put together. And let me tell you, it has definitely been an experience. I’m not at all sure what the other bloggers have sated in their writings, but I’m sure you got the x2 blown tire story in one of them? Do me a favor and please ask your child/person you know who went on this trip, because it is unbelievably hilarious. Mainly because it’s literally unbelievable and ridiculous. A lot of things have fallen in this category as well, so you’ll have plenty of stories to hear when we come back in 3 days!
But tonight I’ll be talking about the ways this past week that Divine Joy has struck me, because this is the reason I came to Belize in the first place. This is what I’ve been chasing since my freshman year in college.
This is what we desire, right? All of us want to feel loved, to be happy, that’s the goal. This is also why so many people fill their lives with the wrong things, the exhaustive placeholders. Trust me, I understand the distractions that fill our world. College wasn’t an easy place to grow in my faith when everything around me was dragging me in the opposite direction (s/o to SMCCM for filling my soul with good things). So, the earlier you act on, not just recognize, the fact that you have a God-sized hole that can only be filled with God, the better off you’ll be. So much more joyful, so much more grateful, your life will be filled with so much more peace. There is so much beauty in our lives and sometimes it is so hard to see. We can’t have joy when we don’t recognize love. We can’t recognize what authentic love is, because we don’t know how to love, because honestly, we don’t know what love truly is.
Love is “to will the good of another.” You are doing what is best for that person’s soul, regardless of what you will get in return. It has been a very slow road for me in understanding that God is love Himself. God is goodness and He desires Goodness for you. God is love and desires Love for you. And very recently, specifically this Friday, I have come to understand that God is Joy.
This trip has been so incredible for me because I have witnessed Christ in His people in abundance and naturally. I have seen Him love me through His children. Many of the people here in Belize are very, very poor, yet are the first ones to walk across the street and help the stranded strangers when their second tire for the day had blown out. That was Jeff and his mother. Elena, never let me wash my own dishes. Aryana showed me how to use the outdoor washing station (there was nothing automatic about it, man) and was ready to pummel the monster in the woods with a rock if we got a visual. Jaden always let me go first into a room or into the cardboard van. Mark, and many of the other boys helped me fill up my water bottle because I can’t pour one of those office-size jugs very gracefully. Natalie would ask if I wanted the light off before she went to bed so that I wouldn’t have to get off the top bunk. The year-long missionaries let us come over and use their showers when our water stopped working, and they even did our laundry for us one night. Mary Rose drove us around and prepared all the behind-the-scenes work, and I don’t really know how much that was, but I can promise you it was a lot.
All of these things are just some of the ways and a few of the things that have brought me so much joy. I have been so loved, and in this I can recognize the sincerity. All of this is possible because God loved us first.
The profound moment, when I finally understood and recognized this Joy for what it was, came on Friday when we had mass at Mount Carmel High School. While all of the students, faculty, and staff were gathered on the basketball court Fr. Mark talked about when he received his call to enter the priesthood. He prayed something (paraphrasing here) along the lines of, “God, I will answer your call, but I want one thing from you. I want to have a joyful life.” In His reply, God agreed by saying, “I AM Joy.” And with that, God has so clearly kept His promise. I was inspired, and truly touched by this testimony because I have been deeply afraid about my future. To know God’s plan is best for you is way different from letting Him mess up your plans, maybe even “ruin your life,” and staying internally calm and trusting. Yet with those changes He hands you all His love and says, “I have different plans for you, for your welfare and not your destruction.” (Jeremiah 29:11) And if you know me at all I am basically a mellow control freak. However, in this moment I became so fully, completely aware that Christ desires my joy as well.
With my heart ready to receive our Lord in the Eucharist I got up for communion. At the point that I bowed I decided to give Our Lord for this day my joy (P.S. to my Catholic friends, if you don’t bring Jesus something when you go up to receive communion you should start. We’ll talk later). So, normally when I receive communion I make brief eye contact with the Eucharistic Minister, in a way to thank them for their service, but not this time. This missionary, who is a volunteer teacher for MCHS presented Jesus right between our faces, to where I couldn’t even see hers. She was out of focus and Christ was all I saw. And the usual words weren’t so usual.
The body of Christ.
She said this with such gentleness and sincerely, in such a profound way with the sense that she had found a magnificent treasure, the most joy in all the world. I cannot possibly describe the sound of these 4 words. In that moment I was filled with Joy, filled with the Holy Spirit, as I gave Him my joy and he gave me His in return. He gave me Himself. God, who is 3 in one, gave me the grace to experience His love in the body of His son, Jesus Christ, and the feeling of joy consumed me as our Advocate filled my soul.
I couldn’t stop smiling, and in difficult moments I know this is one I will always revert back to. The God of the Universe loves me, because I, in all my sinfulness, am His creation. The God of Love, Love Himself, loves me and desires to receive my love for Him.
And He wants the same for you.
I plead with you- never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid. –St. John Paul II