Saturday, January 4, 2014

This Mysterious Joy

"Let us witness to the newness, hope and joy that the Lord brings to life. Let us feel within us the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (Pope Francis).

The Pope has invigorated the theme of evangelization by indicating how important is the characteristic of joy. We can sense this joy in the radiance of his own face. Looking at him, we can't help but want, somehow, to feel in ourselves whatever it is that motivates such a genuine smile.

Still, we know that "joy" is something more than a superficial emotion. It passes through the profound center of the person, as an outpouring of the vitality of God's engagement of the depths of human reason and human freedom.

It is in the overflowing of joy from the heart that we are sustained by experiences of delight, comfort, and peace. Our witness to Jesus is concrete because we know him, because he has entered into a relationship with us and has awoken our adherence to him in faith and love. Our witness to Jesus is joyful precisely because it is a witness to him, his presence, his love for us and for the world.

It is important to remember that in witnessing to the Gospel we don't have to try to "manufacture" by our own power what we think are feelings of joy within ourselves. If we just love Jesus, seek Him with our hearts, let Him love us, and be true and humble with other people, we will be joyful witnesses. Others will see this "human-but-different reality" that has taken hold of us, this newness of life, and they will be provoked by the awakening of hope within themselves.

And we will find joy. We will feel it, not like some emotional stimulation or psychological power that gives us dominance over ourselves and others, but rather we will feel it within the motion of love itself. We will feel joy within the living of our relationship with Jesus and others, within our attention and service, within empathy, patience, and the freedom to wrestle even with our weaknesses.

Joy consists in finding our identity in something greater than our limits and our brokenness, something that embraces us in our fragility and renews us. And we will find that joy accompanying us in unimaginable places, in the darkest abysses and the most profound suffering, present in ways that are inaccessible to the "surface level" of our awareness and that would evade any reflexive psychological description.

Because it doesn't depend on us. It depends on Jesus, in whom the joy of God's Word penetrates the depths of the earth and renews all things.

Whatever the trials we face, whatever fragmentation of our frail conscious perception by the agony that washes over us, we will be sustained by this mysterious joy, sufficient enough to keep going forward and to surrender ourselves to our loving Father with trust.