Kathryn Jean Lopez

Set Your Sights on Joy

It was Thursday morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. Cardinal Dolan was preaching at the 7 a.m. Mass about how once Andrew encountered Jesus, he knew he had found what he was looking for and had to bring others to Him.

Fast-forward a few hours, when I popped into a church on Park Avenue on my way to a lunch meeting. A man with a bright smile saw me, made eye contact, and reached out his hand. “Remember me -- Timmy?” I did, of course. He was always warm and gracious and always asked if I might have some money or food to spare. I instantly realized I had no cash and no food on me. And I was, I confess, preoccupied with getting to that meeting. It was not Timmy who was in need, but me.

“I’m finally baptized!” He clearly wanted all the world to know. He said he was turning his life around and he was overflowing with gratitude. He even wanted to buy me coffee, but then remembered that he was going to Mass and then an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He told me how the people there had helped him get to the point of baptism, cleaned up and healthy and now radiant.

The night that Matt Lauer was being fired, I was across the avenue from where "Today" tapes at Rockefeller Center, this time in the Mary chapel, behind the main altar at St. Patrick’s. After the 5:30 Mass there were devotions held there -- the Rosary and Benediction. As soon as they were over, noise from the setup for the tree lighting could suddenly be heard as if it were in the cathedral itself, as “All I Want for Christmas Is You” blared over Fifth Avenue and into the surrounding buildings. The timing seemed to advocate a listen to an Advent message about the renewed coming of God to the world. Maybe we can take a break from keeping up with every headline and tweet for the few weeks leading up to Christmas and give time for the kind of peace and joy that Timmy discovered in faith.

On St. Andrew’s Day, prayers included the words of Saint John Chrysostom about Andrew: “After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. ... Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.”

Timmy was very much like Andrew with me that day, wanting me to see the greatest gifts. A renewed change of life. Redemption. Faith. Hope. Love.

Lunch on St. Andrew’s Day was with an archbishop from Iraq who talked at one point about “the blessings of persecution.” Persecution promotes a unity among people, a brotherliness among bishops, where there might have been distractions in better times. I should have invited Timmy to lunch, because that’s exactly what he’s made himself about -- love for his fellow humans.

On social media, especially, there’s been some glee about Lauer’s termination. A healthier response might be a little sadness about all the mire of scandal and the pain involved, humility about our own sins, and a desire proclaim what really matters, as Timmy did. This is a time of year when you see “joy” in every kind of advertisement. It could become an opportunity for we ourselves to be advertisements for it -- to spread joy among the people we meet by radiating it from our very souls. Don’t worry so much about the stress of the holidays and the news cycle. Find and bring joy.

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