I love how Pope Francis has resurrected the concept of joy. In his encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), he emphasizes the importance of gladness as part of spreading the message of Christ. “…[Christians} should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but ‘by attraction’” (EG 15) He embodies this message through the way he speaks and interacts with people around him. Photos show him smiling and laughing as he reaches out to bless a baby or receive the hug of an enthusiastic pilgrim. It’s a welcome sight amidst the cynicism and pessimism that seems to have overrun our culture.
A synonym for joy is gladness. This word appears several times in the Bible to describe the joyous disposition of those dedicated to God’s work and service, as well as in response to God’s blessings bestowed upon us. “Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing,” the psalmist proclaims. During my travels across the country, I have crossed paths with numerous people who show me what it means to bring joy into the most menial tasks. One was the driver who shuttled me to a rental car lot. Along the way he told backstories about a town I would otherwise have considered just another spot on the map. Another was a clerk who lit up the dingy environment in a convenience store with her attentive service to each customer. I seem to run across such people when my patience has been sorely tried by the rigors of the road. So often these encounters end with a simple benediction. “God bless you,” they will say as I am exiting the shuttle or collecting my change. Inevitably I feel lightened by their friendliness and good humor. Joy then becomes contagious, something I am grateful to not only receive but also pass along to others.
Saint John Bosco is a wonderful example of a joyful saint. Share his story with your family or class and talk about ways you can spread the Gospel message with joy and gladness.