Pope Francis says that St. Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord always” resonates with the desire everyone feels in their hearts. And the secret to finding and living this Christian joy is found in Jesus’ command: “Go forth! Proclaim!”
The Pope said this today at the canonization Mass for Junípero Serra, held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.,
“Paul tells us to rejoice; he practically orders us to rejoice,” the Holy Father observed. “This command resonates with the desire we all have for a fulfilling life, a meaningful life, a joyful life. It is as if Paul could hear what each one of us is thinking in his or her heart and to voice what we are feeling, what we are experiencing.”
While everyone wants to be joyful, the Pope said, “so much seems to stand in the way of this invitation to rejoice.”
“Our daily routine can often lead us to a kind of glum apathy which gradually becomes a habit, with a fatal consequence: our hearts grow numb,” he said.
“We don’t want apathy to guide our lives… or do we? We don’t want the force of habit to rule our life… or do we? So we ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to keep our heart from growing numb, becoming anesthetized? How do we make the joy of the Gospel increase and take deeper root in our lives?”
“Jesus gives the answer,” the Pontiff said. “He said to his disciples then and he says it to us now: Go forth! Proclaim! The joy of the Gospel is something to be experienced, something to be known and lived only through giving it away, through giving ourselves away.”
In contrast to the spirit of the world, which tells us to “settle for what comes easy,” the Pope said, we must “go out to all, proclaim by anointing and anoint by proclaiming. This is what the Lord tells us today.”
And when Jesus proclaimed his message, Francis explained, he “embraced life as he found it. It made no difference whether it was dirty, unkempt, broken.”
“Jesus did not provide a short list of who is, or is not, worthy of receiving his message, his presence,” the Pontiff stated. “Instead, he always embraced life as he saw it. In faces of pain, hunger, sickness and sin. In faces of wounds, of thirst, of weariness, doubt and pity.”
Christ’s command, he said, was to go out: “Go out and tell the good news to everyone. Go out and in my name embrace life as it is, and not as you think it should be. […] Go out to those who are burdened by pain and failure, who feel that their lives are empty, and proclaim the folly of a loving Father who wants to anoint them with the oil of hope, the oil of salvation.”
Taking up the mission Christ gives us is not about “a perfectly planned program or a well-organized manual,” the Pope said.
“Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven,” he said.
And we are here today, the Pope continued, because those before us have been willing to proclaim this message: “We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the good news of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both ‘good’ and ‘news.'”
In this regard, he mentioned the Church’s newest canonized saint, Junípero Serra.
The saint, Francis said, “had a motto which inspired his life and work, a saying that above all he lived his life by: siempre adelante! Keep moving forward! For him, this was the way to continue experiencing the joy of the Gospel, to keep his heart from growing numb, from being anesthetized. He kept moving forward, because the Lord was waiting. He kept going, because his brothers and sisters were waiting. He kept going forward to the end of his life. Today, like him, may we be able to say: Forward! Let’s keep moving forward!”
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