…so that they may share my joy completely.
On Friday, Timothy Egan from the New York Times penned an article entitled, “Pope Francis and the Art of Joy.” In effect, Egan says that if you asked people, 4 years ago, to describe a Catholic, the picture would probably not have been positive. Today, Francis is a “model” of what Catholic joy looks like. And it’s having an impact.
When you talk about joy you have to consider a number of items. FIRST, is to define the term. What, exactly, is joy?
- Is joy something we “get” or “earn” or “work towards?”
- Is it truly a gift that someday, for no reason, simply ends up on your doorstep?
- Is it a choice?
- Is it an attribute? Something to which you avail yourself?
- Is it a fruit? seed? potential?
- Is it a Charism?
I’ll tell you what it’s not:
- Joy is not the same as “happiness” (but it is related).
- Joy is certainly not the same as “pleasure”.
- Joy is probably not merely a by-product but does involve a continual choice.
SECOND, is there a price associated with joy? Isn’t there the fear that we will have to have gone through what Francis went through to “get joy?”
THIRD, are we joyful? (1 Peter 3:15) Do we really project this?
FINALLY, how do we get it? A hint can be found in Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
- Pray for it. It does have an emotional component but there is also a mystical aspect to it as well. Ask God for it.
- It seems to be somewhat tied to difficulties and suffering. And who here doesn’t have some of THAT in their life? James 1:2 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
- Combine the cross with prayer and this can provide hope and hope leads to inspired ACTION. Only people with hope do things to move the situation forward towards a better place.
Now, why is this important?
The Pew Research Center recently released its “Religious Landscape Survey.” One striking statistic was the incredible rise in the “Nones.” (Not “nuns”). Who are the “Nones?” According to Professor Mark Silk at Trinity College, they are:
The people who, when you ask them what their religion is, they say, “None.” That doesn’t necessarily mean they disbelieve in God, or that they don’t say prayers, or even that they don’t attend a house of worship. What they’re doing is answering a question about (their own) personal identity, as in: What is your nationality? Or, what is your race? Or, what is your sexual preference? Nones are the people who choose not to make a religion part of their identity.
The percentage of Nones has risen steeply — more than 300 percent in the past quarter century, to now encompass 22.8 percent of all American adults, according to Pew.
Now, some would say that the “Nones” are certainly not “saved.” But are the “Nones” lost? Are they condemned to be “Those who belong to the world” and thus the realm of the devil?
- They are “in” the world?
- Are they “of” the world?
- Or are they simply “caught up in” the world, (where we all find ourselves at some time)? It is not so much the place, but the degree.
- Are they totally cut from the vine? To what degree is that possible with a merciful God?
Now back to Joyful Francis…. He would probably ask, “How do we engage the ‘Nones?'”
- A highly successful real estate manager I know once mentioned that most people ask: What is it? How’s it work? What does it mean to me?
- One of the items that animates the “Nones” is their desire to help others, make a difference and make the world a better place.
- In that regard, the Catholic Church is a community that could have value and worth to them, if for no other reason, that we have significant resources and a long tradition and experience of helping others and a critical mass of people that can support their desire to help others.
- The other “asset” that we can offer them relates to Jesus’ statement in today’s Gospel: …so that they may share my joy completely.
- They may be happy. They may be content. But Christ offers them something deeper, more mystical.
- If we’re working on the “joy thing” ourselves, we will come in contact with others who will inquire about it. Christ will cause that coincidental conversation to occur.
- So the assignment this week:
Audio version of the homily is here: