MOSAIC Spring 2014 - Page 8

The Joy of the Gospel 7 Signs of Christian Joy What must I do to make room for joy in my life? Fr. Charles Fox A fter the last Mass of my first Christmas as a priest, a woman whom I had never met before approached me. She had a somewhat sterner look than those who had come up to me simply to say, “Merry Christmas.” This woman looked me in the eye and, recalling the theme of my homily, said, “You were preaching about joy up there, but you sure didn’t look joyful.” I do not remember how I replied, though I am sure it was one of those cases in which all of the intelligent things I might have said occurred to me only hours later. In the moment, I was taken aback and felt a little sorry for myself. I was tired by the time of the afternoon Mass on Christmas Day, and visible demonstrations of joy seemed to be beyond my strength. I say “seemed,” because I know there are times when I have allowed fatigue or other difficulties to eclipse my joy. 6 MOSAIC Why Is There Lack? Thinking about Pope Francis’ recent apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, brought this incident to my mind again and gives me an occasion to consider the nature of Christian joy. The Holy Father challenges us to examine ourselves, looking within for the joy he rightly says should characterize the life of every Christian. Making this examination, we will find either that we possess that joy that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit—or that we lack joy. In the former case, we have further cause for rejoicing in God’s goodness to us. In the latter case, we must consider why we lack joy, confess any sins which may be stifling the Holy Spirit’s work, and do all we can to open ourselves up to the change God wants to work in us. We should do this without fear or anxiety, remembering his great love for us. Lent without Easter But how do we know what joy “looks like” in the first place? We probably know some people who are obviously joyful and others who seem not to be joyful, those “whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” (EG, no. 6). Do not many people, however, seem to be somewhere in-between? How do I know whether I am experiencing the kind of joy our Catholic tradition says I ought to be experiencing? We probably sense that the appearance of joy registers somewhere on the temperamental spectrum between frivolity and abject sadness, but a