Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Pope Francis' Recipe for Holiness: Ingredient 4: Joy


I am sitting here in my stateroom mid-way through a 9 day cruise with my family writing this post.  I am happy, tan and relaxed.  It's hard not to be with all the fun, food and entertainment available 24/7.  I know all too well, however, that worldly happiness is fleeting - here one minute and gone the next - like a rainbow in the sky or a wave on the sand.

Four years ago while on a similar family cruise we received the news that my beloved grandmother had passed away. We finished our cruise anticipating the sad task of burying her remains upon our return.  I can honestly say, that despite all the "fun" surrounding me, I was NOT HAPPY. 

I was, however, joyful.

Let me explain....

Joy is the fouth ingredient in our recipe for holiness and one of Pope Francis' favorite topics. His first Apostolic Exhortation is entitled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and it begins with these words: "The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew."

In this phrase the Holy Father echoes the tradition of the Church for two millennia and the testimony of the Sciptures. 

Saint Paul lists joy among the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:22)

Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that "The joy of the Lord is our strength."

St, Philip Neri, known as the Saint of Joy encourages a joyful heart saying: "A heart filled with joy is more easily made perfect than one that is sad."

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta sees joy as a powerful means of evangelization, saying "Joy is the net by which we catch souls."

Again, Pope Francis puts it bluntly: "A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions."

The list goes on and on - the saints, the teachings of the church, Papal documents, Christian music and more all underscore joy as an essential element of Christian living.

Back to the cruise....I certainly was not happy to hear the news of my Grandmother's death - but I remained joyful in spite of it.  Why?  Hers was a life lived in, with, through and for Christ - of her eternal destination, I was quite certain - and I rejoiced for her.  My own faith and trust in the Lord sustained me during the days and months of grief which followed. 

I had so many experiences of grace and encounter during that time, that it confirmed that joy indeed can be found in the direst of external circumstances.  Joy is, as it were, circumstance - independent. Its source is the Holy Spirit, and we have only to ask him to receive it.

Is anyone else beginning to notice a pattern in the ingredients? They are all gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit - the Lord, the giver of life!  Holiness is on one hand, the most difficult recipe of all, because it involves a total surrender of our will, our hearts, our very lives.  On the other hand, it is the simplest recipe of all, because once we surrender, it is the Lord himself who mixes the ingredients and cooks them to perfection.  Now THAT is something to rejoice about!

Visit Allison at Reconciled to You for more #Recipe4Holiness!

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