Christian joy was born on Easter Sunday. Jesus is risen, he is alive and the experience of this event is transforming. The encounter with the risen Jesus marked the lives of the disciples and must continue to mark ours as well.
Christian joy is a gift that is welcomed, not manufactured or bought in a shop. Being happy means deciding to imitate Jesus in our way of life. As St. Augustine says, “we must seek what lasts forever. When we have God, we are happy.” Happiness is a deep and lasting inner experience that is born from a relationship with the risen Jesus, not from the circumstances of the moment or from immediate pleasure.
Sometimes we think we’d be happy if we didn’t have flaws or worries. Indeed, it is possible to experience joy even in fragility. This is what we find in the three parables of chapter 15 of the Gospel of St. Luke. What draws attention is that the joy gained contrasts with the initial situations of loss: a lost sheep; a lost coin; a son who leaves the Father’s house. But the loss becomes a place of joy when it ends again in the encounter. St. Ambrose comments that the shepherd who seeks the sheep is Christ, that the woman who finds the coin is the Church and that the merciful father is God the Father: “Christ, who took your sins upon himself, bears you in his body; the Church seeks you; the Father welcomes you.”
When we pray for one another and with one another we are like a flock around the Good Shepherd, we experience the care that comes from the Christian community and the welcome in the Father’s merciful love from others. As the Fathers of the Church say, Christians experience joy when they maintain intense charity among themselves. “The consummation of all our works is love,” notes Saint Augustine.
From Christian joy is born the exercise of love, in concrete gestures of service for the most needy. This is where the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network takes us on a mission of compassion for the world.
Fr. Antonio Sant’Ana, SJ
(Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – Portugal)