Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Once again in this Easter season may our lives show forth the joy of the Lord!
Yes, joy is contagious. We can’t earn it. We have to ‘catch it’ by means of personal contact with others who are joyful.
Have you ever noticed how St Pope John Paul II and St Teresa of Calcutta were often captured by photographers smiling and even laughing?
Think also of that great figure of joy Jean Vanier, who lives and works with the L’Arche communities. Vanier radiates joy and peace as he and his assistants serve those who suffer.
It’s the same with our Pope Francis. His very particular concern for welcoming our sisters and brothers who are refugees is shown in the transparent joy on his face when he meets them.
What is the source of this deep joy we literally see in the faces of these contemporary disciples? Our current Holy Father tells us that it all flows from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who is the source of all Christian joy.
But the road to this joy isn’t easy. It requires us to face ourselves and our shortcomings, and to overcome many obstacles along the way.
Sorrow and disappointment are a fact of life. Our emotional, physical and even spiritual ‘hurts’ cannot be buried or ignored. They must be suffered. It is only by way of the paschal mystery that we can participate in resurrection joy.
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium (The joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis shows us the obstacles we face, but he assures us that joy is always available to us because of the endless mercy of God.
Where do we encounter Jesus and receive his gift of joy this Easter 2017?
Certainly, we encounter him in prayer and in the sacraments of the Church, especially in the Eucharist and in Confession.
We also encounter this joy whenever we reach out to others, moving beyond our comfort zones to embrace the poor and the marginalised who are close by, even in a wealthy and comfortable country like Australia.
This Easter season, let’s help each other confront our brokenness and help each other find joy.
This is a great paradox. Instead of the frantic pursuit of happiness by empty and artificial means, we find lasting joy by better understanding how we ourselves are broken and then by opening our hearts to others regardless of our own needs and worries. All too often we are so distracted we miss seeing the Risen Lord appearing right in front of our eyes!
Pope Francis challenges us: Are we moving too fast, working too hard, depending on our own individual efforts rather than on the grace of God working through the community of faith?
In this holy season, let’s slow down, be silent and pray before we act. May the Holy Spirit guide us in our efforts to reach out to others (especially the least of Christ’s sisters and brothers).
The Holy Spirit of the Risen Lord is with us here in the Archdiocese of Melbourne. That makes it possible for the Lord’s message of hope and salvation to be delivered with great joy, no matter what is happening in our individual lives, in our families, in our parishes and archdiocese, and throughout the world!
Let’s pray that we ‘catch joy’ and spread it throughout our Archdiocese and beyond!
† Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne