In Italy, there is a preference for painted paschal candles rather than the wax add-ons that are normally done in our country:
(Vatican Radio) A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian, even in times of sorrow and tribulation. This was Pope Francis reflection at Mass Thursday morning at Casa Santa Marta. During his homily the Pope returned to one of the recurrent themes of his Pontificate to date – there is no such thing as a sad Christian – stressing that it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to love and fills us with joy.
Pope Francis began by noting that before going to Heaven Jesus spoke of many things, but always dwelt on "three key words": "Peace, love and joy." Regarding peace "He told us that He does not give us peace, in the same way as the world gives it to us". Instead, He gives us a "peace forever”.
Regarding love, Jesus frequently said “that the commandment was to love God and love your neighbor". The Pope noted that in Matthew 25, Jesus almost made a “protocol", “on which we will all be judged”. Then turning to the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis added that in it "Jesus says something new about love: ‘Do not just love, but remain in my love'".
"The Christian vocation is this: to remain in the love of God, that is, to breathe, to live of that oxygen, to live of that air. Remain in the love of God. And with this He encapsulates the depth of His discourse on love and moves on. And what is His love like? 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you'. It is a love that comes from the Father. The loving relationship between Him and the Father is also a relationship of love between Him and us. He asks us to remain in this love, which comes from the Father".
Pope Francis continued: "He gives us a peace that is not of the world. A love that is not of the world, that comes from the Father". Then the Pope focused on Christ’s exhortation: "Remain in my love". The sign that we "remain in the love of Jesus", he emphasized, "is keeping the commandments". It is not enough to just follow them. "When we remain in love", he said, "the Commandments follow on their own, out of love". Love, he reiterated, "leads us to naturally fulfill the Commandments. The root of love blossoms in the Commandments". And these are the common threads in a chain: "the Father, Jesus, and us". Francis then turned his attention to joy:
"Joy, which is like the sign of a Christian. A Christian without joy is either not a Christian or he is sick. There's no other type! He is not doing well health-wise! A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. I once said that there are Christians with faces like pickled peppers [sour faces – ed] ... Always with these [long] faces! Some souls are also like this, this is bad! These are not Christians. A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions".
The Pope recalled that people would say of the early martyrs that they went towards "martyrdom as if going to a wedding feast". This is the joy of a Christian, he said, " who safeguards peace and safeguards love”. Peace, love and joy , "three words that Jesus left us". Who gives us this peace, this love? Who, asked the Pope, "gives us joy? The Holy Spirit!":
"The great forgotten in our lives! I would like to ask you - but I will not, eh! - To ask you: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit? Don't raise your hand ... He is the great forgotten, the great forgotten! And He is the gift, the gift that gives us peace, that teaches us to love and fills us with joy. In prayer we asked the Lord: 'Guard your gift'. We asked for the grace that the Lord guard the Holy Spirit in us. May the Lord give us this grace to always guard the Holy Spirit in us, the Spirit who teaches us to love, fills us with joy, and gives us peace".
I study cross-confessional martyrdom in the 17th century (i.e. not just Catholics; traitors of all sorts claimed to be martyrs in England) and it was frequent that they would proclaim that their executions were just like their weddings. One Presbyterian minister specifically told this to his wife, in prison, the day before his beheading. She did not report that she slapped him, but I wonder!
Joy is a gift that doesn't come all at once, but we learn-- a lot of the times, we even have to learn what it actually is. We persevere, knowing that we are not perfect, and that we make mistakes.
We also learn that true joy is enhanced and nurtured in sobriety, the latter of which does not mean being sad, sour, or grouchy. Joy likewise does not mean being happy-clappy and hippy-dippy, either. Joy has an anchored stillness to it.
The happy-clappy, hippy-dippy outlook promoted by so much of pop culture speaks more of insecurity and an inability to be still.
When I see someone like Pope Francis, I see seriousness. Profundity. His joy and spontaneity have a very real depth to them. They are anchored, though not complacent and comfortable. It was the same with St. John Paul II and with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, though on different registers. The love St. John Paul II had for young people is born of the seriousness of knowing what's truly at stake. Benedict XVI has always known that love without the truth is no love at all: he knows what the Church says "yes" to. It's that sort of balance that makes seriously joyful people and gentle heavy-hitters. This is what ultimately makes an authentic, affirmative orthodoxy compelling.
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