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At the heart of Christian life is the sense of joy that comes from following Jesus Christ.
Christians are essentially an Easter people. They are celebrating their redemption and their focus is on living the life of the redeemed. This is not a life of sadness. The redeemed are those admitted to share in the life of God, set free from a slavery to sin and self-centredness: released to live for the good of all people.
However as Pope Francis reminds us:
6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.
I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty.
Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.
Today's world benefits from many advances in the last century, but often individuals are left isolated, driven by the need for success and fearful of failure. The blame culture has overshadowed the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation. Some see advances in scientific discovery as the path to explaining questions of faith.
Christians are called to continuously renew their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus so that they don't end up resentful, angry and listless. In Jesus they can know unconditional love and the acceptance and forgiveness that flows from it. Aware of this they are filled with joy and able to bring that love to their fellow human beings.
The Acts of the Apostles has many examples of the joy experienced by the early Christians as they experienced the freedom of being followers of Jesus.
Today we can enjoy this same experience:
8. Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption.
There are two consequences of this encounter.
1 We become more attractive individuals
2 We have something which we can share
These are the basis of evangelisation. We know who and what we have to share
and our changed selves will enable us to seize the opportunities that will present.
This is a gentle process, which requires patience.
Non believers are not fodder for evangelists.
They are fellow human beings with whom we can share on our pilgrimage of faith.
Quite pointedly Pope Francis reminds us:
10 Consequently, an evangeliser must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!
Moreover in becoming evangelisers our joy increases. Sharing faith brings its own joy. It also brings a freedom, as we rely on Jesus in all our work of evangelisation.
13 The joy of evangelising always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace which we constantly need to implore.
We remember Jesus, and our encounter. And as in Eucharist this remembrance brings life and joy.