A colleague of mine who was ruminating on the meaning of our work in Jesuit education recently sent me a passage from Pope Francis'sEvangelii Gaudium that served as a much-needed reminder of the ultimate horizon of our apostolate and of the attitude that should, even in fractured ways, permeate all that we do:
The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others”. When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment. For “here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means”. Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ”.
I love these words, and like others, I want to embody this enthusiasm and joy. I also find myself immediately posing questions: Why, today, is joy difficult? Why do we need to be exhorted to it? Is it, perhaps, a problem of memory? Do we fail to remember what God has done for us? Are we groaning in our own desert, yearning for the security of captivity, impatient of what awaits?
Or is it one of integration? Do we struggle to integrate the Good News -- to let it seep into us, into our spiritual marrow, into the bloodstream of faith?
Is it, perhaps, something even more worrisome. Is the news of the Resurrection not enough? Has even that become matter-of-fact?
More and more, I believe that joy, like love, has to be an act of the will. This is more than a mere positive attitude; this is more than a glass-half-full mentality. It is a decision to wake up every day and see this world as redeemed, as loved, and as baptized, and to do so even when events suggest the contrary, even when it brings ridicule from the voices of others or our inner demons. Joy must be cultivated, nourished, and marked.