“Turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness.” – Es. C:25

“We found a mass in your body. It’s about the size of a softball,” said the doctors on New Year’s Eve.

For the majority of my life, I have been blessed with good health. I go for annual medical checkups and I religiously get my flu shots. There were no warning signs whatsoever for the pain I experienced three months ago.

My health scare was an eye-opening, grace-filled experience for me. Being pretty much bedridden for 15 days (at that time, not knowing how long it would last) gave me opportunities of struggle, prayer, reflection, and ultimately joyful surrender.

Over the past seven years, I’ve had the privilege to work at non-profit organizations whose mission and values I support wholeheartedly. My journey began because of an experience I had in high school that led to an encounter with the goodness of God in my life, my first encountered of knowing and feeling that I was God’s beloved.

Despite that experience of being loved by God, I still had reservations in my pilgrimage of faith. I desired control over certain aspects of my life, and it was starting to give me stress and anxiety if I’m not “on target” with my own plans.

Being ill reminded me that as a believer, we are called to trust God in joyful surrender always – when things are good and when they are not so good. It was easy to feel sorry for myself and give in to thoughts of anxiety, worry, and discouragement.

At the start of Lent last week, Pope Francis encouraged us that this is “the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear; for God, not for the world.”

Today’s reading reminds us that we can ask God to give us a clean heart; we can ask God to give us back the joy of our salvation.

Our Lord desires to turn our mourning into gladness, our sorrows into greater joy. Spiritual joy is different from earthly pleasure. To me, spiritual joy reminds me of connectedness with the divine and others in my community. Ignatian spirituality invites us to live for magis (for the more) and to live Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (for the greater glory of God). We cannot filter our day-to-day lives like Instagram, but our hearts can be filled with joy, no matter our circumstances because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also our God.

Anonymous Pilgrim