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The grace of joy

· Mass at Santa Marta ·

Being Christian means having the joy of belonging completely to Christ, “the one spouse of the Church”, and going to Him the way one would go to a wedding. Therefore, joy and consciousness of Christ's centrality are the two attitudes that Christians must cultivate in their daily lives. Pope Francis spoke about this in his homily at morning Mass, Friday 6 September, in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The Pope's reflection came from the Gospel narrative of the day's liturgy, in which the Evangelist Luke tells of the confrontation between Jesus and the pharisees and scribes over the fact that his disciples are eating and drinking while others are fasting (Luke 5: 33-39). The Holy Father explained that what Jesus, in his answer to the scribes, wanted them to understand. He presents himself as a bridegroom: “He is the bridegroom. The Church is the bride. And in the Gospel he returns many times to this image – the wise virgins waiting for the bridegroom with burning lamps; the feast that the father throws for the wedding of his son”. By his answer to the scribes, the Pope explained, “the Lord says that when you are the spouse you cannot fast, you cannot be sad. The Lord here shows us that the relationship between Him and the Church is matrimonial”. He continued, “this is the deepest reason why the Church guards the Sacrament of Marriage. And it is called a great sacrament because it is precisely the image of the kind of union that Christ has with the Church”. Thus, when we speak of a wedding, “we speak of a feast, we speak of joy; and this shows us Christians the approach”: when you find Jesus Christ and begins to live according to the Gospel, the Christian must do it with joy. It is a joy, “because it is a great feast”.

The Christian is fundamentally joyful. In order to drive that image home, the Pope recalled the miracle worked by Christ at the Wedding in Canaa. “If there is not wine, there is no feast. Let's imagine finishing the wedding feast by drinking tea or fruit juice... It doesn't work. And Our Lady asks for a miracle”. This is the life of the Christian, this “approach, joyful, joyful with all your heart”.

Naturally, added the Pontiff, “there are moments of the cross, moments of sorrow, but there is always that sense of deep peace. Why? The Christian life is lived like a feast, like the wedding feast for Jesus and the Church”. And here the Holy Father remembered how the first Christian martyrs faced martyrdom as if they were going to a wedding; even at that moment they had hearts filled with joy. Therefore, the first attitude of the Christian who goes to meet Jesus is that of the Church who unites herself to Jesus like a spouse. “And at the end of the world there will be the final feast, when the new Jerusalem is dressed as Bride”.

To explain the second attitude the Holy Father recalled the parable of the wedding of the king's son (Matt 22:1-14; Luke 14: 16-24). “Some people were too busy with their lives to go to the feast. And the Lord, the king, said: go to the street corners and bring everyone, the travellers, the poor, the sick, the lepers and the sinners, bring everyone. Good and bad. Everyone was invited to the feast. And the feast began. But then the king saw that one wasn't dressed for the feast. Sure, the question comes to us, “Father, why: they were taken from the street corners, how can you expect wedding attire? What does this mean?”. It's simple: God asks only one thing in order to enter the feast, one's whole self”. Pope Francis explained: “The groom is the most important; the groom is everything. And this takes us to the First Reading (Col 1: 15-20) which speaks to us strongly about the totality of Jesus. The first born of all creation, in him all things were created and through him and in view of him; because he is the centre of all things. He is also the head of the body of the Church. He is the beginning. God gave to him the fullness, the wholeness that in him all things might be reconciled”.

This image makes us understand, the Holy Father proceeded, that he is “everything”, and he is “the only thing”: he is the “one spouse”. Therefore if the first attitude of the Christian is “the feast”, the second attitude is to recognize him as the only one. And those who don't recognize him are not dressed for the wedding, for the feast”. If Jesus asks us for this recognition it is because he is, as a bridegroom is, “faithful, always faithful. And he asks fidelity of us”. You cannot serve two lords: “either you serve the Lord or you serve the world”. The second Christian attitude is “to recognize Jesus as the all, the centre, the totality”, even if we are always tempted to reject this “novelty of the Gospel, this new wine”. Jesus is the bridegroom of the Church, who loves the Church and gives his life for the Church. He organizes a great “wedding feast. Jesus asks of us the joy of the feast, the joy of being Christian”. But he also asks us to be totally his; though we sometimes have bad habits or do things that don't lead us to being totally his, “they mean little: let us repent, let us ask forgiveness and go forward”, without growing tired of “asking for the grace of joy”.

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