I was watching my nephew Michael staring at his broccoli. He was not a happy camper. The tinkling sound of the summer ice cream truck making its rounds through our neighborhood brought delight to his face. It's amazing how its arrival is timed exactly to the placing of dinner on the table!
"Can I have ice cream?" Michael asked my sister. "Not until your vegetables are gone," she replied. He pouted. He really disliked broccoli. He really wanted that ice cream.
Like all of us, Michael learned a lesson about life. We can't have just the good. Other things have to be swallowed along with it. And some of those things we don't like. Some will make us pout. But we have to take them in order to taste the joy of "cool, sweet tasting ice cream."
It can be as basic as sitting in long lines of traffic just to go to the beach. For others, it might be more complex. They anxiously wait weeks to hear the good news that their dreaded disease is in remission. Still others grieve months before they can let go and breathe the freshness of life again. In all these moments we have to hear the bell of joy.
It is the presence of God that gives us the courage to "stare" at what we don't like on our plate of life and to get through it. In fact, it is timed perfectly to ring when we need it the most. How do you think we would endure most of what life serves us? It is God's grace and love which comforts us. We need to listen for the bell. It tolls a great sound of courage.
St. Francis de Sales preached this same message to people who, in the poverty of their times, felt discouraged. He wrote: "God does nothing in vain. He gives strength or courage, but only when we need them. In this, God never fails us." It is this way, Francis was saying, "Listen for the bell. It is our God present among us." And this is a cause for joy.
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 12:22, 28
"Therefore I tell you not to worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.... If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today... will He not much more provide for you... "