Misericordia et Misera 3: Joy and Encouragement

john-8At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy this past weekend, Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter. Follow this link for the full document, Misericordia et Misera.

The point of being forgiven is not solely a legal wiping of the slate. The impulse the Holy Father describes here is a deeper involvement in the spreading of the Good News, the good news of mercy:

3. What great joy welled up in the heart of these two women. Forgiveness made them feel free at last and happy as never before. Their tears of shame and pain turned into the smile of a person who knows that he or she is loved. Mercy gives rise to joy, because our hearts are opened to the hope of a new life. The joy of forgiveness is inexpressible, yet it radiates all around us whenever we experience forgiveness. Its source is in the love with which God comes to meet us, breaking through walls of selfishness that surround us, in order to make us in turn instruments of mercy.

Radiation: a science word, but an apt one in this context. Does the Christian–and the Catholic–experience of forgiveness generate this expansion of energy? Or does our experience of being forgiven for our small or petty sins remain something celebrated just in one single heart?

Do Christians express this joy:

How meaningful in this regard are the words of encouragement found in an early Christian text: “Clothe yourselves in joy, which always is agreeable and acceptable to God, and rejoice in it. For all who are joyful do what is good, think what is good, and despise sadness… All who put aside sadness and put on joy will live in God”.[Shepherd of Hermas, XLII, 1-4] The experience of mercy brings joy. May we never allow this joy to be robbed from us by our troubles and concerns. May it remain rooted in our hearts and enable us to approach with serenity the events of our daily lives.

Some words on despair:

In a culture often dominated by technology, sadness and loneliness appear to be on the rise, not least among young people. The future seems prey to an uncertainty that does not make for stability. This often gives rise to depression, sadness and boredom, which can gradually lead to despair. We need witnesses to hope and true joy if we are to dispel the illusions that promise quick and easy happiness through artificial paradises. The profound sense of emptiness felt by so many people can be overcome by the hope we bear in our hearts and by the joy that it gives. We need to acknowledge the joy that rises up in a heart touched by mercy. Let us keep in mind, then, the words of the Apostle: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4; cf. 1 Thess 5:16)

We may be quick to dismiss Saint Paul. The domination of technology is also a slavery to reason. Joy is an unseemly display to some people. Adults in the West “should” be serious. We teach teens to be silent and sullen. Children catch the drift easily, and we wonder why faith seems to stagnate between generations.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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