Joy In Evangelizing

January 30, 2023 | NEW HEARTS

Have you ever arrived to mass a little late, squeezed into a pew relieved to have made it, only to be greeted by an elderly lady scowling at you with a disapproving glare? Have you ever experienced a moment in Mass where the people around you failed to smile or look your way even at the sign of peace? Have you ever encountered a man honking at you, shaking his head, and wagging his finger at you for an apparent slight on the parking lot at the dismissal at Mass? If Catholics struggle to show joy and charity in a place where it is most expected, how much worse is the forecast for the secular world in desperate need of joyful Christian examples? On the other hand, have you ever encountered a person whose smile and joy are simply contagious? No matter the weather or chaos around, peace and joy radiate from them. When talking about them, you hear people say things like, “There’s just something about her that makes me feel light and happy.” Or “I’m not sure what it is, but I want whatever he has that makes him such a pleasant person.” Or “She brings light into the room.”

Christians who exude joy bring light into a dark world. People notice the joy and connect the cause of joy to the love shared between the Christian and Jesus Christ. Joy is a great catalyst for opening the door of evangelization. A visitor to a parish is more likely to approach a smiling parishioner to ask questions than one wearing a scowl or a look of indifference. Likewise, the witness of Christian joy must also be shared in the secular world- in the workplace, school, the grocery store, and digital platforms. A smile and positive attitude instantly destroy boundaries and make one approachable. Doors are open to evangelists who allow their joy for the Lord to permeate into the world around them. Pope Francis discusses this in Joy of the Gospel.

The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice. A few examples will suffice. “Rejoice!” is the angel’s greeting to Mary (Lk 1:28). Mary’s visit to Elizabeth makes John leap for joy in his mother’s womb (cf. Lk 1:41). In her song of praise, Mary proclaims: “My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:47). When Jesus begins his ministry, John cries out: “For this reason, my joy has been fulfilled” (Jn 3:29). Jesus himself “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Lk 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” (Jn 15:11). Our Christian joy drinks of the wellspring of his brimming heart. He promises his disciples: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 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” (Jn 16:22). The disciples “rejoiced” (Jn 20:20) at the sight of the risen Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that the first Christians “ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (2:46). Wherever the disciples went, “there was great joy” (8:8); even amid persecution they continued to be “filled with joy” (13:52). The newly baptized eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (8:39), while Paul’s jailer “and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God” (16:34). Why should we not also enter into this great stream of joy?

There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. 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. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).  

Joy of the Gospel Paragraphs 5 & 6

Let the Joy of Christ shine through you, smile more, and see who God puts in your path. He puts non-believers in the path always. Don’t let lack of joy steal the moment!



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