We need more joy

  • October 12, 2007
{mosimage}In many of his homilies and speeches since coming to Toronto, Archbishop Thomas Collins has returned time and again to the theme of joy. It is an attribute implicit to being Christian, yet it is all too rare in practice.

The archbishop has reminded us that being Christian should mean that we are full of joy. After all, we have heard the Good News of of the risen Christ and if that doesn’t fill us with joy, nothing will. Whether he is talking about religious vocations, about Christian service or simply about worship, Collins says, our actions should radiate joy.

This reminds us of our own vision statement here at The Catholic Register, which describes us as “joyful servants of God’s pilgrim church.” In other words, we are happy to be here and profoundly happy that God has called us to undertake this privileged mission in communications.

Yet joy is not the first thing that comes to mind when surveying the response of Christians to today’s world. Fear, anger or anxiety are more like it. Too often, we see difference as a threat to be greeted with hostility.

Granted, all people of religious faith are faced with formidable challenges in a society that distrusts absolute claims to truth. Nevertheless, it is not our aggressiveness in making our arguments, or even our insistence on our rights, that will persuade others of the rightness of our religion. Few people are converted by dogma or doctrines. Though necessary, they can seem cold and barren unless dressed in the joy that should be ours as Christians.

The joyful face of Christianity will not look outwards with foreboding. It will be confident in God’s promise, even when confronted with the world’s malice and distrust. To be joyful means we will not fall into a “circle-the-wagons” religion that is distrustful of anything not clearly labelled Catholic.

Joy recognizes that God created the world and saw that it was good. In our joy we can see the beauty in all things, and recognize truth in others, even if they do not share the same creed. It allows us to extend a hand to others, to embrace what is good and true with an open heart.

This doesn’t mean joy has to display itself as all laughing and dancing. Nor does it mean ignoring the very real challenges we face in the world. We do indeed live in a “vale of tears,” as it says in the Salve Regina. Joy can be grave as it faces the world’s troubles, but never  despairing.

“Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls,” said Mother Teresa. She knew what she was talking about. No one could say her work among India’s poorest and most downtrodden members wouldn’t cause hearts to melt in tears. Yet her antidote was joy-filled love.

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