A friend has been diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. She is part of my faith sharing community, which means she is surrounded by prayer, support and hearts that listen.
Her attitude inspires us. She is filled with gratitude for the life she has lived, and faith that God is with her through this struggle no matter the outcome. One thing she says fills her with joy and hope is the pontificate of Pope Francis.
When someone’s world is turned upside down, it can be hard to summon joy and hope. But when you find someone like my friend, you know you have encountered a person of genuine faith. As someone in my group remarked, here we stand on sacred ground.
The world can tempt all of us to despondency, and we can always find something to be anxious about.
But a Christian is called to joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” St. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4.
The key question is, Where do we find the peace and joy that surmounts these nagging anxieties? How do we make Jesus our center?
When traveling cross-country recently, I noticed an enormous building. A sign proclaimed it was an “Amazon fulfillment center.” I prayed over that word, fulfillment.
What does it mean to be fulfilled? To achieve what has been promised or hoped for? Can Amazon fulfill my hopes and dreams? Or was this facility’s use of that word a laughable parody of true fulfillment?
Then, there was this recent headline: “Will supply chain issues ruin Christmas?” Ruin Christmas? Because you don’t get the toy, the device, the sweater, the “stuff” you were hoping for? This headline speaks to the desert that is our consumer culture.
So, like my friend, I turn to Pope Francis. In my lifetime, I have not encountered a more prophetic figure. His encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” was an environmental clarion call unheeded in many U.S. churches.
Each day, his words from the Vatican spur us to prayer and to action and remind us of the church’s long legacy of social justice.
“Christian joy is peace, peace that is deeply rooted, peace in the heart, the peace that only God can give,” said Pope Francis, whose apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” helps us understand what true joy is to a Christian.
Pope Francis constantly draws us closer to the poor, to the social justice mission that is the heart of the Gospel and must be the heart of the church. He reminds us that we need Jesus, and that when we encounter him, he sends us forth to the least among us, to the margins, to the refugee, the unborn, the death row inmate, to those in need of healing.
A November article in Commonweal magazine tells the inspiring story of a Catholic Worker House, Casa Juan Diego, in Houston, which serves migrants arriving from Central America. It quotes Pope Francis, who often speaks of the plight of refugees: “This is the work the Lord asks now of us, and there is great joy in it.”
Pope Francis reminds us that what brings joy is doing the Lord’s work. So don’t fret constantly about the future, about the plastics that engulf us, about the rising sea temperatures. Ask, What can I do? And then, do it joyfully. Be a positive influence for good, as Pope Francis is, in the midst of negativity.
Rejoice in building a church that is devoted to the Gospel, which calls us to Christ, he who sends us to serve with trust and gratitude the poorest among us.
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