MOSAIC Spring 2014 - Page 5

y “And here is the first word that I wish to say to you: joy!” Pope Francis, Palm Sunday homily, March 24, 2013 Formed by Paul VI But why does Pope Francis emphasize joy rather than some other fruit of knowing Christ? Of course, the emphasis is biblically founded. We hear Jesus proclaiming a “Gospel of Joy”: “I have said these things [about abiding in the Father’s love when we keep his commandments] so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11; see also Jn 17:13). Still, why emphasize believing in joy rather than faith, hope, or charity? Well, clearly Francis picks up a theme to which Pope Paul VI devoted his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Gaudete in Domino (Joy in the Lord). Of the previous popes in recent history, Paul VI is a mentor of Francis who has shaped his mind and heart, and whom Francis cites in his writings most frequently. No Forbidden Trees More than forty years ago, the future Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Ratzinger, gave the answer to this question by suggesting one reason, more than any other, why so many unbelievers are put off from the Christian faith. “The most telling refutation of what Christianity claims to be,” wrote Ratzinger, is “this feeling that Christianity is opposed to joy, this impression of punctiliousness [showing great attention to correct behavior] and unhappiness.” Furthermore, he adds, Christians are perceived to be obsessed with the “fourth [parental authority] and sixth commandments [sexual morality] that the resultant complex with regard to authority and purity renders the individual so incapable of free self-development that his selflessness degenerates into a loss of self and a denial of love, and his faith leads, not to freedom but to rigidity and an absence of freedom.” Of course, this alleged malady Ratzinger describes is Hollywood’s exaggerated version of the Christian life. Ratzinger concludes, “It is surely a more likely explanation of why people leave the Church than are any of the [intellectual challenges or] problems the faith may pose today.” Yet, Ratzinger quickly responds by stating that the dangers today for the culture seem to be not scrupulosity (“moralism”) but laxity, not legalism but antinomianism (“lawlessness”), not a lack of freedom but license (“anything goes”), since, he correctly notes, “there are no longer any forbidden trees” (alluding to Genesis 3:1-7) Where Is There Hope? We se