The Joy of the Gospel

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When Pope Francis began his pontificate he focused on two Christian virtues in particular. They were joy and mercy. Both are worth noting as we reflect on the spirit that should animate our lives as Catholics. The theme of joy was evident from the very beginning of his pontificate.

For example in 2013 he said, “A Christian is one who is invited... to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ. This is a joy!” This theme was refreshing and uplifting for all Catholics. It encouraged us in the Church to have a positive spirit to our lives and relationships.

Similarly the theme of mercy touched on a very important element to living in relationship not only with God but with other people. In a homily in 2013 he said: “And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord's most powerful message: mercy.” Thus it is no surprise that Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year with the theme of mercy for the year 2016.

When he produced his first major document, a document on the subject of the Church’s mission to evangelize, he framed it within the theme of joy. Thus, it was entitled, the “Joy of the Gospel.”

This important presentation of the missionary task of the Church highlighted from the very beginning that each Catholic is called to be a witness to the joy of being a Christian. It should be this infectious joy that attracts others to Christ and the Christian way of life.

He wrote, “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ, joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” (EG#1).

Pope Francis wants us to turn our attention away from ourselves and being self-interested. He wants the Church to look outwards, to look to others in a desire to offer them the treasure we possess in our Catholic faith. Thus, he calls on all Catholics to become “Missionary Disciples”.

He says, “I dream of a 'missionary option', that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (EG#27). This is a bold dream, but one that the Pope has invited us to consider.

In order to help the Catholic community in Tasmania better understand the Pope’s call for evangelisation, this year the Archdiocese will be conducting the first of what will be annual conferences on the theme of evangelisation. They are to be called ‘Evangelium’ conferences, ‘evangelium’ being the Latin word for ‘gospel’.

The very notion of being missionary can seem daunting to us. Pope Francis has offered his voice to a theme of teaching by recent Popes who have all declared that evangelisation is a mission entrusted to every baptised member of the Church.

These conferences will help those attending better understand what evangelisation means and will offer many practical ways in which we can realise our responsibility as missionary disciples. They will hopefully be a stimulus to find new joy in being Catholic.

To find out more about the Evangelium Conference, or to register, click here: