Path #7: Confident Joy
We Catholics suffer from a serious branding problem. Ask someone to describe what a Catholic is like, and the first response you get might be “guilt-ridden.” “They’re always dragging themselves through the mud,” people might say. “They deny themselves all the fun things in life.”
Pope Francis is on to this, and it’s probably the reason why his very first papal letter was entitled The Joy of the Gospel. Committed Catholics know that, far from making them miserable, their Faith makes them joyful. Connected with Jesus and following His Way, they’re becoming the perfect, happy souls that God, their Creator, made them to be. They’re finding their true selves, and there is great joy in that.
This is the Joy of the Gospel, and it’s the message the pope wants us to project in our evangelization efforts. So many times on the streets of New York, I’ve heard people say, “Wow! This is amazing! We didn’t know Catholics did this sort of thing! You guys look so happy!” There’s nothing more compelling to the beaten-down souls wandering the streets of New York than joy.
Joy, along with love, were the distinguishing characteristics of the early Christians which took the Roman Empire by storm. If it worked then, it can work now! Joy is particularly attractive in today’s secular world because so many people out there are chasing its weak cousin, also known as “happiness.” Happiness, the feeling you get when some worldly need is satisfied, is unfortunately fleeting. Many former Catholics left the faith years ago chasing their “happiness,” confusing happiness with joy. Joy is confidence in our relationship with our Creator, it’s knowing that we are His beloved, and that there is a place for us with Him in eternity.
Joy is unshakeable.
Joy is contagious.
Joy is confident.
Joy is one of the keys to the missionary heart.
Sometimes I tell our young people when they wonder what to say out there, “Don’t say anything. Just be your joyful selves. People will come up to you and start a conversation.” Incredibly, this works. People see a joyful missionary and a voice inside them says, “Go to her. Get me some of that!”
And if we remain joyful in Christ, it makes the next step to the heart of a missionary, perseverance, a piece of cake….
"The Opening of the Fifth Seal" by El Greco