Glory and Joy
Updated: Mar 20, 2019
"Have you spent any time praying with Baruch?"
My retreat director smiled at me with a mischevious glint in his eye. I was in the middle of a five day silent retreat, preparing for the biggest change in my life since my ordination to the priesthood. In a few months I would begin teaching at Mundelein Seminary as professor of homiletics and preaching. I was leaving behind parish ministry with a heavy heart. Ever since starting seminary, all I had ever wanted to be was a parish priest. Five years in that ministry had been the best of my life so far. Now I was being asked to serve in a different part of the Church and I didn't know what was waiting for me.
So I figured some serious time of prayer and reflection would be good for me. Which brings us back to my retreat director asking me about Baruch. My confusion must have been apparent on my face. With a shrug and a sheepish grin, I said that I had only interacted with the book of the prophet Baruch only when it came up in the readings during the season of Advent, when the Church was preparing for Christmas. My retreat director continued to smile as he told me to spend time praying with the fifth chapter of Baruch during my next prayer period. He thought it would help clarify what God had already been saying to me in the previous days of the retreat.
The next day, I settled into my favorite seat in the chapel (right hand side, three rows from the back) and opened my Bible to this unfamiliar prophet. What I found there blew me away. The whole fifth chapter of Baruch revolves around a prophetic word telling of the reversal of fortune for the people of Israel. Having suffered exile at the hands of the Babylonians, Baruch looks forward to the day when God restores His people: "Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on forever the splendor of glory from God: Wrapped in the mantle of justice from God, place on your head the diadem of the glory of the Eternal One" (Baruch 5:1-2). The beauty of that image, of a people being freed from mourning and misery, clothed instead in the splendor of glory, struck a chord in my heart. That chord swelled in a mighty crescendo as I came to the end of the chapter: "For God is leading Israel in joy, by the light of his glory, with the mercy and justice that are his" (5:9).
Leading in joy. I read that both as the people following God joyfully but also as God leading the rejoicing, to remind a people that had forgotten how. I saw myself as part of that procession: clothed in glory that was not my own, led in rejoicing because I had forgotten how. Glory and joy - these two were gifts God wanted to give me as I started a new chapter in my priesthood. They are also the gifts of God that I most want to share with others. These have become the watchwords of my priesthood: glory and joy. I strive to see everything, even the harder parts of my vocation, as opportunities to see God's glory and joy at work in my life. In all my preaching, teaching, and speaking, I hope to share in some small way the glory and joy that God desires to give to each and every human being. Everyone deserves the glory of freedom and the joy of belonging to a people led by the living God.