A series of reflections for the parish on Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel
Part 2: Where does the joy of the Gospel come from?
In paragraph 21 of The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis writes:
The Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy. The seventy-two disciples felt it as they returned from their mission (cf. Lk 10:17). Jesus felt it when he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and praised the Father for revealing himself to the poor and the little ones (cf. Lk10:21). It was felt by the first converts who marveled to hear the apostles preaching “in the native language of each” (Acts 2:6) on the day of Pentecost. This joy is a sign that
the Gospel has been proclaimed and is bearing fruit. Yet the drive to go forth and give, to go out from ourselves, to keep pressing forward in our sowing of the good seed, remains ever present. The Lord says: “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also, for that is why I came” (Mk 1:38). I invite you to think of a time when something you did for someone really made a difference for the better in their life. What did that feel like for you? I hope that one of the words you might use to describe the feeling would be joy. When we’re able to make a difference in someone’s life, even if they don’t recognize it, or are not grateful for it, there is a kind of deep satisfaction with knowing some good was done through us.
I think this is what the Holy Father means when he says that the joy of the gospel is a missionary joy. The gift of faith that God gives us is a beautifully paradoxical one: in order for us to feel the full effects of it, we have to give it away! In order for us to really experience the joy of the gospel (that is, the good news that even though we are weak and sinful, Jesus has come to free us by his love) we have to share that good news with others.
In my experience, when we don’t share our faith with others, we can not only miss out on the experience of seeing it affect their lives, we can slowly begin to forget what it means for our own life. I’ve use this image before: God’s life in us is supposed to be like a river, not like a pond. When the gifts are flowing through us to others, the water is fresh and fruitful. When the water pools up in us and is not flowing out, it can get stagnant.
Pope Francis talks about the dynamism of this going out from ourselves in the paragraph above. And he lists some different times in the early Church when disciples experienced the vitality of having God’s gifts flow through them to others. What a joy it is to share the good news of Jesus with someone and see how much it can affect their life for the good, even change their life forever! It’s particularly amazing because it makes us realize that it’s not us doing the transformation by our power, it’s God working through us for the other person.
That’s the kind of fruit we’re all called to bear as disciples of Jesus. Not just priests, not just people who work at churches, but every disciple. And we’re called to do it together, in particular together as a local parish. Let’s keep on listening in this series of articles to how Pope Francis is inspiring us, and keep asking the Holy Spirit to show us what it might mean for what we do at Saint Raphael…
In gospel Joy
Fr. Phil Hurley, S.J. Pastor