The Way of Joy (part 4)

The Way of Joy

One question we have all asked ourselves is how can I be happy? Everyone is searching for joy the only difference is we search for it in different ways. I changed the title of this little reflection on the Holy Father’s exhortation Evangelii Gaudium to ‘The Way of Joy’ because I believe the Holy Father provides a practical answer to the question ‘How can I be happy?’

Session 10 (Paragraphs 132-159)

In the last reflection I mentioned the Holy Father talked about the Church as the agent of evangelisation. We are a people on the way to salvation and we invite others to join us on the way.

In this section of the exhortation the Holy Father turns to the liturgy in the work of salvation. The Liturgy strengthens us to walk in the way of salvation. I believe many young people experience the liturgy as something boring, simply going through the motions in a mechanical way (actually many faithful Catholics would struggle with a mechanical understanding of liturgy), but if young people grasped the point that the Mass is about giving us the strength to walk in the way of salvation (which means walking in the way of joy) they would be more engaged. The Mass gives us the strength to walk in the way of truth, goodness and beauty.

In this section of Evangelii Gaudium the Holy Father focuses on the readings at Mass and the homily.

The Holy Father comments on the readings,

It is worth remembering that ‘the liturgical proclamation of the word of God, especially in the Eucharistic assembly, is not so much a time for meditation and catechesis as a dialogue between God and his people, a dialogue in which the great deeds of salvation are proclaimed and demands of the covenant are continually restated. E.G. 137

The deeds of salvation are proclaimed and the demands of the covenant are restated. This should be evident for us who celebrated the Easter Vigil last Saturday night. At the Easter Vigil we read through key texts which talks about God’s salvation and covenants throughout the Old Testament which are fulfilled in Christ, the final covenant with God.

The Holy Father then turns his attention to the homily, saying a homily should be:

  • Brief and avoid taking the form of a speech or lecture. The homily should be a celebration of faith. E.G. 138
  • An encouraging life-changing communion with Christ in the Eucharist. E.G. 138
  • A kind of music which inspires encouragement, strengthens and gives enthusiasm. E.G. 139
  • A communion of truth. The homily is a heart to heart communication. The preacher has the wonderful but demanding task of joining the hearts of the Lord and his people E.G. 142-143

If these points weren’t daunting enough, especially for a priest, the Holy Father quotes James, “We who teach shall be judged with greater strictness.” (Jas 3:1)

The Holy Father gives some practical points for priests to prepare the homily. I will mention a few because I believe they can help all of us break open the Word of God in our prayer life and apply it to our daily lives. (E.G. 145-159)

 

  1.  Pray, call on the Holy Spirit for insight.
  2. Start with the Word. Give your entire attention to the biblical text. Have a reverence for the truth of Scripture. The Word is always beyond us. Create an environment of serene concentration throughout the week. Try to understand what the sacred author wished to say.
  3. Develop a great personal familiarity with the Word. Approach the Word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it penetrates thoughts and feelings to bring about a new outlook on life.
  4. Keep growing and desiring growth in understanding. Never think ‘I know this story, I’ve heard it before’, and stop paying attention. We can always get new insights from Scripture.
  5. Lectio Divina, a prayerful reading of the text. This helps move the word from the intellect into the heart. We ask “Lord what does this text mean for me? What troubles me about this text? What is it about this word that moves me? What attracts me? Why does it attract me?” Know that when we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations and distractions usually arise. The devil does not want you to meditate on God’s Word. E.G. 153.

I believe what the Holy Father is saying to us in this section of the exhortation is if we are to evangelise we have to be continually evangelised ourselves. Remember we are a people on the go, we are making our way to salvation. We need to let the Word of God in all its richness sink into our hearts weekly and even daily and let it affect our way of life. We need to walk in the way of joy with the guidance of Sacred Scripture if we are going to attract others to follow our lead.

Session 11 (Paragraphs 160-175)

In this last section of chapter 3 the Holy Father talks about ongoing formation. If we are a people on the move, walking towards salvation, we are continually in need of being formed and our faith must mature. If our faith is stagnate we are actually falling behind. As Christians we are called to the lifelong mission of becoming more like Christ. At a baptism the priest says to the newly baptised, ‘You have clothed yourself in Christ.’ We put on Christ at our baptism and we are called to become more like Him throughout our lives. The Holy Father reminds us of St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20).

The Holy Father refers to two terms which relate to maturing in our faith: Kerygma and mystagogical catechesis. Kerygma means proclamation. Christian kerygma is the proclamation of the crucified and risen Christ as the final and definitive act of salvation.

The Holy Father says kerygma is the initial proclamation of the Christian faith.

All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the [kerygma] treats. (E.G. 165).

The Holy Father goes on to say this is not a mere mental activity. “It is an activity of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart.” (E.G. 165). It is a response to the desire for joy. The Holy Father writes,

The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical. (E.G. 165).

Mystagogical catechesis is a teaching that delves a person into the mystery of our faith. The mystery of our faith in a biblical understanding is coming to understand the plan of God for the world. God’s plan is to draw us into the joy of an intimate relationship with Himself. Our understanding of God’s plan develops but also remained mysteriously obscure. We never see the complete picture but get glimpses of throughout our lives of faith. The invitation to the joy of intimate communion with God is the guiding principle of any teaching program.

Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty”. Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. (E.G. 167)

Formation in the faith, becoming more Christ like, is all about living a beautiful life of love. The Holy Father says the moral component of our faith, our rejection of the culture of sin and death, is based on the fact that some choices endanger the life of faith. Some choices limit wisdom, self-fulfilment and an enriching life. A person once told the moral aspect of our faith is a ‘loving no’. It’s not a ‘no’ to limit freedom but to enhance it. Just as a mother says ‘no’ to a child reaching for a pot of boiling water.

The Holy Father concludes chapter 3 by mentioning we need to be formed in Sacred Scripture. We need to receive its message (kerygma), delve into it and pass it on (mystagogical catechesis). The Holy Father reminds us, “We do not blindly seek God, or wait for him to speak to us first, for God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know, which has not been revealed to us. Let us receive the sublime treasure of the revealed word [and pass it on].” (E.G. 175).