PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish

______________________________________________________________________                                                                                                     December, 2023


The Proclamation of a Great Joy

“Either we proclaim Jesus with joy, or we do not proclaim him, because another way of proclaiming him is not capable of bringing the true reality of Jesus.”  These words of Pope Francis were spoken at his Wednesday exhortation on Nov. 15, 2023.  He went on to say, “The Gospel is a proclamation of joy.  Ideologies are cold, all of them.  The Gospel has the warmth of joy.  Ideologies do not know how to smile; the Gospel is a smile, it makes you smile because it touches the soul with the good News.  The birth of Jesus, in history as in life, is the source of joy.  Think of what happened to the disciples of Emmaus who could not believe their joy, and the others, the disciples all together, when Jesus goes to the Upper Room; they could not believe their joy, the joy of having the risen Jesus. 

“An encounter with Jesus always brings you joy, and if this does not happen to you, it is not a true encounter with Jesus.  What Jesus does with the disciples tells us that the first to need to be evangelized are the disciples. The first who need to be evangelized are us: we Christians.  This is very important.  Immersed in today’s fast-paced and confusing environment, we too indeed may find ourselves living our faith with a subtle sense of renunciation, persuaded that the Gospel is no longer heard and no longer worth striving to proclaim.  We might even be tempted by the idea of letting ‘others’ go their own way. 

“Instead, this is precisely the time to return to the Gospel to discover that Christ is forever young, he is forever a constant source of newness.  Thus, like the two at Emmaus, one returns to daily life with the enthusiasm of one who has found treasure.  They were joyful, these two, because they had found Jesus, and he changed their life.  One discovers that humanity abounds with brothers and sisters waiting for a word of hope.  I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed . . . encounter with Jesus Christ.  Each one of you take a little time and think: ‘Jesus, you are within me.  I want to encounter you every day.  You are a Person, you are not an idea; you are a traveling companion, you are not a program.  You, Jesus, are a source of joy.  You are the beginning of evangelization.  You, Jesus, are the source of joy!”

Where Joy Is Found

              Joy is infectious.  It spreads quickly from one person to another.  A celebrant walks down the aisle at the start of Mass and the community becomes imbued with his energy as he calls all to prayer and worship.  This is not a task to be accomplished but a gift he shares with all present.  “Good morning, everybody,” he declares.  “Let us praise our loving God together.”  His enthusiasm affects all in the community as they answer his call to worship.  Throughout the liturgy the leaders of song encourage people to raise their voices in praise as the hymns touch into people’s inner emotions of thanksgiving, gratitude, forgiveness and petition.  They leave humming the tunes that will help carry them through whatever they may be facing.  Despite any difficulties, sorrows or frustrations they may have are balanced by the joy that remains fixed in their hearts. 

              Not only at Mass, but in many other experiences throughout the week, joy can be manifested.  The regular staff meeting, although squeezed in between many other pastoral commitments, the participants may not be in the best frame of mind for a fruitful encounter.  But they show up and participate to the best of their ability in the discussions, decisions and planning that are part of any staff meeting.  An underlying joy carries them through the impatience, rash judgments or frustrations they may be feeling.  The same can be said for those lay leaders and parishioners who might have less than positive reactions toward what is happening in the parish.  They endure these and remain faithful to the community as a whole.  Why?  Because of the joy deep within that overcomes fear, anger, disillusionment and withdrawal.  “This is my parish,” they say, “and despite the flaws and failures, disappointments and frustrations I might feel occasionally, it is my spiritual home and that is a joy.”