" For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.“ – Lk 1:39-45

Joy filled so many spaces in so many different ways.

I recently went on a Casa Building trip with 13 others to help paint a house for a family in Tijuana, Mexico - Teresa, Montezuma, and their children Abril and Ricky. As the paint rollers were passed out and painting began, it was touching to see 6 other families whom were previously gifted houses working side by side with us. It was a communal experience of paying it forward, love in action, and abundant joy.

As I was painting the inside of the main living area, a 3-year-old Ezekiel walks in and asks his dad if he can help him paint. My heart was moved with joy for this child’s eager desire to help his father.

As the paint dried and the new furniture arrived for the house, everyone pitched in with excitement and anticipation to put the finishing touches on the surprise for the family. After the big reveal and the family’s surprise, they toured the house and Ricky quickly climbed the ladder and hopped onto his top bunk with excitement and a huge grin. My heart was filled with excitement and joy for Ricky’s new warm bed of his own.

Each family member shared words of gratitude for the newly built, painted and furnished home. As Abril, 9 years old, began to share, her ear-to-ear smile turned into streaming tears as she no longer had words and simply nestled her overwhelming sense of gratitude and joy into her mother’s chest. Again, something inside me felt deep and gentle joy.

There were so many times joy filled the spaces that weekend - friendly joy as “La Maestra” joked with me during a car ride, tender joy as little Jocelyn patiently taught me how to make a bracelet, hospitable joy as the women in the community spent hours filling our bellies with scrumptious food, and beautiful joy as we experienced la posada together as a reminder of the Holy Family’s experience.

Each of these were encounters with Christ that filled me with life, which leaped from deep within. This is what Elizabeth must have felt in today’s Gospel when Mary visited her. This joy is what John must have known the moment he was in Christ’s presence. Joy may have looked different throughout the weekend, but each time Christ was present, life deep down inside me leaped for joy.

What encounters with Christ, this Advent season, have brought you a sense of deep joy?

Jaclyn Torres