Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
As we began our Eucharistic Procession on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi last month, our Chancellor Father Kevin Huber gave a brief word of encouragement to let our joy be evident to those we meet. He drew attention to principle seven of the ten principles of missionary discipleship, “joy should be evident in our invitation to others to enter into a personal encounter with Jesus,” outlined in my pastoral letter “We Proclaim Jesus as Lord” (dcgary.org).
I was happy to witness the joy before, during, and after our Eucharistic procession. We were prayerful and joyful – and at the conclusion, following benediction, we had a wonderful picnic lunch filled with good food and fellowship. To continue building upon this theme, I share some of those key points outlined in my pastoral letter.
The Church has long known that joy draws people to Jesus. Writing in the late 2nd Century, Tertullian attributed the attractiveness of Christianity to the care Jesus’ disciples showed for one another and for others: “(I)t is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another.”
The Blessed Mother gives us a great example of a heart filled with joy. In chapter 1 of the Gospel of Luke, Mary responds to God’s request of her with a simple “yes,” and then proceeds “in haste” to the hill country to be with her kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s greeting is filled with great joy! Her response was to sing forth her words of thanks in prayer, known as the Magnificat (from the Latin version of the beginning of Mary’s words “my soul magnifies the Lord”):
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46-56).
Pope Francis reminds us that joy lies at the very heart of our faith. His 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is devoted exclusively to this defining aspect of missionary discipleship. And he reminds us that “(A)n evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” He invokes joy as an antidote to defeatism, which can turn us into “querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses.’” Indeed, he says too many Christians live “Lent without Easter.”
As we enjoy the warmth of July, let’s ask the Lord to give us His joy and recommit ourselves to sharing that joy with others. Joy is both infectious and attractive to those who need to know that being a disciple of Jesus brings great joy.
Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary