Pope: Do Not Be Afraid of Christian Joy

Says ‘Apostolic Joy’ is Foundation, Allowing Church to ‘Irradiate and Expand’

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Without Christian joy, there can be no foundation to the Church which needs an “apostolic joy” to irradiate and expand, Pope Francis said Thursday evening.

Celebrating Mass in the Roman church of St. Ignatius of Loyola to give thanks for the canonisation of the 16th century Jesuit St. Jose de Anchieta, Francis referred in his homily to the Gospel story of the disciples of Emmaus. 

“The disciples cannot believe their joy,” the Pope said. “They cannot believe because of their joy” on meeting the risen Jesus after his death, he explained.  

“It is a moment of wonder, of encounter with Jesus Christ, in which there seems to be too much joy to be true. Indeed, to assume the joy and wonder of that moment seems risky to us and we are tempted to take refuge in scepticism, in ‘not exaggerating’. 

“It is easier to believe in a spirit than in the living Christ!,” the Pope added. “It is easier to go to a necromancer who predicts the future, who reads cards, than to trust in the hope of a triumphant Christ, a Christ who vanquishes death! 

“An idea or imagination is easier to believe than the docility of this Lord who rises again from death, and what he invites us to!,” the Pope continued. “This process of relativising faith ends up distancing us from the encounter, distancing us from God’s caress. It is as if we ‘distilled’ the reality of the encounter with Jesus Christ in the still of fear, in the still of excessive security, of wanting to control the encounter ourselves. The disciples were afraid of joy … and so are we”.

The Holy Father went on to speak about the reading from the Acts of the Apostles which narrates the healing of the paralytic, prostrate at the door of the Temple, begging. 

Peter and John were unable to give him anything he sought: neither gold nor silver, but they cure him by offering him what they have: the name of Jesus. The crippled man’s joy is contagious and, in the midst of the hubbub Peter announces the message. 

“The joy of the encounter with Jesus Christ, which it is so frightening for us to accept, is infectious and cries out the message: and this is how the Church grows!,” the Pope said. “The paralytic believes, because ‘the Church does not grow by proselytism, but by attraction’; the testimonial attraction of this joy that proclaims Jesus Christ. 

“It is a witness born of joy, accepted and then transformed into proclamation. It is the foundational joy … without this joy, a Church cannot be founded! A Christian community cannot be established! It is an apostolic joy that irradiates and expands”.

Known as the “Apostle of Brazil,” Father Jose was Brazil’s third saint. Born on the Canary Islands, he came to Brazil from Portugal in 1553 as a missionary priest. Although he was a highly influential figure in Brazil’s history, as a founder of Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, as well as proponent of education, promoter of human rights, and convertor of Indians to Catholicism, he is widely recognized for his Jesuit role and values.

The Pope noted that St. Jose de Anchieta knew how to communicate what he had experienced with the Lord, what he had seen and heard from Him. St Jose was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, and Pope Francis extended his liturgical cult to the universal Church on 3 April, a process equivalent to canonisation.

St. Jose, the Pope recalled, was one of the first Jesuits Ignatius sent to America, aged just nineteen. “He had so much joy that he was able to found a nation: he put in place the cultural foundations of a nation, in Jesus Christ,” Francis said. “He had not studied theology, and he had not studied philosophy; he was a boy! But he had felt the gaze of Jesus Christ, and he had let himself be filled with joy, and chose light. This was and is his holiness. He was not afraid of joy”.

Pope Francis concluded by saying that St. Jose de Anchieta had a beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mary, to whom he compared the message of peace, that proclaims the joy of the Good News. “May she, who in that Sunday dawn, sleepless with hope, was not afraid of joy, accompany us on our pilgrimage, inviting us all to rise, to set our paralyses aside, to enter together into the peace and joy that Jesus, the Risen Lord, promises us,” he said. 

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