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The joy of faith

· A message ignored by the media ·

Recent news and opinions, marked by the logic of informative agendas, usually succeed one another so rapidly that because of the greater importance of other occurrences we risk failing to notice truly important messages or events; they are all too often lost among the lists of our electronic mail or in the impagination in use in the means of communication.

This might have happened in certain milieus to the Pope’s Message for the 27th World Youth Day 2012, which, with its Pauline theme, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4), is dedicated to the great virtue of joy. It is a splendid text, stimulating and full of positive feeling, which is reminiscent of another marvellous document on the same subject: Paul VI’s Gaudete in Domino (9 May 1975).

Benedict XVI’s timely reflection presupposes an appeal to overcome the view, commonly held however contradictory and false it may be, that spiritual realities are boring when they are not shrouded in a blend of gravity and grief — like the letters of condolence of former times edged in black. And it helps to demolish the false image of the Church circulated by certain people out of self-interest as anachronic, limited to condemnation and always saying “no” to every human proposal.

With his characteristic intellectual vigour and simple explanations, in his Message, addressed primarily to youth, the Pope analyzes the human and supernatural dimension of joy, accompanying his teaching with important biblical and theological references as well as with great and positive common sense.

“Our hearts are made for joy”, “God is the source of true joy”, “Preserving Christian joy in our hearts”, “The joy of love”, “The joy of conversion”, “Joy at times of trial”, “Witnesses of joy” are the meaningful headings of the various parts of this Message, in which Benedict XVI — thoroughly acquainted with human nature, created and loved by God, as well as with the deeper desire for happiness that every person harbours in his heart — turns us toward God, as the supreme goal, who in his Son Jesus Christ made us share in his full love and who in his beauty, goodness and truth incorporates the noble hopes and joys of this world that are a foretaste of him.

As well as asserting such an indispensable sign of Christian faith as joy, this Message is an effective and timely incentive to overcome the difficulties and hardships with which the current economic crisis and values are threatening society, especially its youngest members, and provides us with reasons for overcoming the temptations of pessimism and the deceptive substitutes for happiness.

Accepting the Pope’s invitation, we Christians will do well to proclaim joy as our heritage even further afield and to show that the experience of faith cannot deprive us of good humour — indeed quite the opposite — and still less of the joy of noble human realities, including those which the Holy Father calls “simple joys”, authentic gifts of God: “the joy of living, the joy of seeing nature’s beauty, the joy of a job well done, the joy of helping others, the joy of sincere and pure love... the happy times in family life, shared friendship, the discovery of our talents, our successes, the compliments we receive from others, the ability to express ourselves and to know that we are understood, and the feeling of being of help to others. There is also the excitement of learning new things”.

The Christian might perfect these joys, sublimating them with faith in Christ’s Resurrection — to which we are called as a supreme happiness, and which, in this Easter season we celebrate joyfully — but can never exclude them from the Christian journey, if it be such.

This is not a matter of an ideological optimism based on the success of a mere earthly project that shuns the difficulties — the cross! — on the human journey and that, at this time in history has proven useless and tragic because it is inhumane, in the ideologies that supported it, but is a matter of witnessing, especially today in the New Evangelization, to the joy that is born of faith and grace and that places God, ever close, as the foundation, goal and fullness of the human being, who helps us above all when human possibilities are exhausted. God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 23, 2018

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