A reminder of the words of Pope Francis urging us to a deeper personal relationship with Jesus. in whom there is joy for the world.
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.
This is good news for the world…
The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.
The Gospel is also good news for Christians, inviting us to joy. We face the same temptation away from ‘real’ life to the idols of consumerism. As Pope Francis notes…
This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.
But there is a further danger for us. We may end up substituting ‘religious observance’ for the life of faith.
If the fruit of personal relationship with Jesus is joy, ‘religious observance, keeping the rules more or less, but missing the heart of it, may end up leaving us subject to the pretty much the same (un)spiritual consequences as are produced by consumerism!
So, says Pope Francis:
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.
How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!
One tried and trusted way of deepening our personal relationship with Jesus is to get to know him better through the Sunday Gospel.
- During the days before Sunday, read the Gospel of the Sunday. Ask yourself how Jesus is in the gospel, what does his way of behaving show us? What do his words reveal about him, and about the Father. Sometimes there are puzzling features of a Gospel passage. Don’t get distracted by those: the evil one would much rather we bury our nose in commentaries, or give up reading, rather than allow us to look to Jesus. So focus on what is clear, on the who and how of Jesus. Of course, if you want to check the commentaries or ask others about the puzzling bits, fine, but keep things in proportion!
- When you come to Sunday Mass, spend a little time before Mass speaking to the Jesus you have met in the Gospel; and again during the time of Collection and Offertory; and again at the end of the Mass.
- And in the days after Sunday go back to the Gospel. Consider what you have learnt from it about Jesus and about yourself. In the quiet of prayer speak with Jesus about what you have learnt, and what you hope for…
And come Thursday, start again with the Gospel of the next Sunday.
- Where can you find the Sunday Gospels? Well, they are posted on this Blog each Thursday, or you may find it easier to use a Sunday Missal… Or use the Universalis app…
Quotations from Pope Francis: The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii gaudium).
Smiling Angel. Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris. (c) 2015.