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The Joy of the Gospel

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Joy and Hope

The Joy of the Gospel
Sunday, November 25, 2018

I believe that St. Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. . . . [He] was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his open-heartedness. —Pope Francis [1]

Just as Pope Francis has exercised a worldwide and major imaginal change, Francis and Clare of Assisi are still having a profound impact in the Christian world, eight hundred years later. They told us by their lives that Christianity could be joyful, simple, sweet, and beautiful.

I believe that the Gospel itself, and the Franciscan vision of the Gospel, is primarily communicated by highly symbolic human lives that operate as “Prime Attractors”: through actions visibly done in love; by a nonviolent, humble, and liberated lifestyle; and through identification with the edged out and the excluded of every system. The very presence of such Prime Attractors “gives others reasons for spiritual joy,” as St. Francis said. [2]

Both St. Francis and Pope Francis are simply following Jesus’ lead. In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes:

  1. The Gospel . . . constantly invites us to rejoice. A few examples will suffice. “Rejoice!” is the angel’s greeting to Mary (Luke 1:28). Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb (cf. Luke 1:41). In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled” (John 3:29). Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21). His message brings us joy: “I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). . . . He promises his disciples: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20). He then goes on to say: “But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). The disciples “rejoiced” (John 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. . . . Wherever the disciples went, “there was great joy” (Acts 8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be “filled with joy” (Acts 13:52). . . . Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy? [3]
  2. . . . I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. [4]

References:
[1] Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home (May 24, 2015), 10, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html.

[2] Compilatio Assisiensis (The Assisi Compilation), 83. See Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2 (New City Press: 2000), 186.

[3] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel (November 24, 2013), 5, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html.

[4] Ibid., 6.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Media: 2014), 262.

Image credit: Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan (detail), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2013.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. . . . And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy. —Desmond Tutu
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