Editor’s Note:As part of our “Comfort and Joy” Advent/Christmas blog series, newly-commissioned missioner Erin McHugh shares how her experience of accompanying young people on retreats last summer gave her the strength she would need during her time of mission formation in Washington, DC.
I have often found that throughout my life, I find my comfort in God and that comfort leads me to share the joy of life with others. Pure joy to me is being able to live an authentic life and encounter Christ in our fellow brothers and sisters.
This past summer I worked as a retreat intern at CrossRoads Ministry, an organization which offers urban retreat experiences that invite people to be transformed through building relationships on the margins and through deep prayerful reflections.
During my first few weeks at the job, I was a little uncomfortable. I felt like I was being stretched too far outside of my comfort zone and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to stand a whole summer of accompanying young people on retreats. I found myself turning to God for comfort and strength to help me move past the discomfort and make that summer a joyful and life-changing experience for me.
As the weeks and retreats went by, God lessened my discomfort and allowed me to experience the joy of life like I never had before. I was able to be my most authentic self and live in a manner worthy of God’s calling for me. I found joy in sharing my life with those living on the margins. God filled an empty hole in my burning heart, which could only be filled with a deep sense of community.
Through the joy of community, I was able to love and be loved. That summer, I experienced love in many ways; whether it was a man with Down Syndromes calling me his sister, a man experiencing homelessness telling me he hoped to be able to share a meal with me again, or the retreat group taking the time to listen to my own unique story. Everyone I encountered made me feel so loved, and in return I immediately loved them back. That summer allowed me to realize that I am truly loved, and I need to open the doors of my heart and let the world in.
The newfound love of myself and my neighbors that summer comforted me to realize that I am not alone in wanting to change the world through love and radical hospitality. The experience with CrossRoads was a blessing for me as I am about to embark on a journey of overseas mission work.
During my time in Formation and living in the Casa San Salvador community, I have had this same experience. I hope to be able to continue to find comfort and joy among the people I will be working alongside during my time of mission abroad.
Question for reflection: what is pure joy to you?