By Bishop Kevin J. Farrell
Publisher of The Texas Catholic
Considering that Our Holy Father Pope Francis constantly exhibits joy in exercising one of the most challenging ministries in the world, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that his first major “solo” document of his pontifical ministry should bear the title “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium) and devotes the entire first section to Christian joy and an invitation to join in a new evangelization motivated by the concept.
Make no mistake about it, this is no Pollyanna message or a pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by. It is a serious call to confront the here-and-now realities of the world we live in with the fact that joy is not a transient good feeling of self-fulfillment, nor even happiness or delight. It is the much more profound understanding that you are loved unconditionally with a love that longs to be requited but never as a pre-condition.
In English, the Hebrew word “hesed” has no equivalent but is used to describe God’s steadfast love. “Give thanks to The Lord for he is good; and his mercy (hesed) endures forever.” Pope Francis devotes two full paragraphs (EG 4-5) to passages on joy from the New Testament and Hebrew Scriptures.
Recognizing that “there are Christians whose lives seem more like Lent than Easter,” he continues “I realize, of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes but it always endures, even. as a flicker of light born of our personal certainties that when everything is said and done we are infinitely loved.”
Technical progress has multiplied occasions for pleasure and happiness but has not succeeded in engendering the joy that comes only from waiting on the Lord .
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell is the seventh bishop of the Diocese of Dallas. Read his blog at bishopkevinfarrell.org.