During his pontificate, Pope Francis has put much emphasis on joy and even dedicated an entire encyclical to the “Joy of the Gospel.” He writes in the opening paragraph,
“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 Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.”
At the very start of his encyclical, Pope Francis puts this “joy of the Gospel” in stark contrast to the pervading mood of modern culture,
“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and an-guish 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 con-cerns, 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. This is a very real dan-ger 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.”
This corresponds to the eighth step of the “Way of the Heart,” where we are called to look out-side of ourselves and be compassionate towards others, especially the most vulnerable of society. This is what gives us a true and lasting joy that attracts others to the Gospel. Our joy is not a self-ish joy, but a joy that springs from a life lived for others.
It is a joy that will give us lasting happiness, not only in this life, but in the life to come.