In his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa, Pope Francis called on Christians to be joyful, and said pessimism is not Christian.
Contrasting the joyful countenance of a person who has been forgiven and redeemed, with the face of someone attending a wake, Pope Francis delivered a homily on the joy that springs from the forgiveness of sin and the closeness of the Lord. Both the first Reading and Gospel for the day speak of the profound joy that comes from within, which is very different from the pleasure that we feel at a party. The whole liturgy cries out, “Rejoice, rejoice!”
Joy that comes from being forgiven
The Holy Father focused on three aspects of true joy. First he spoke of the joy that comes from being forgiven: “The Lord has removed the judgment against you.” And so we are called to rejoice, and not to live a tepid life, precisely because we have been forgiven. This, he said, “is the root of Christian joy.” It is similar to the joy of a prisoner when his sentence is commuted, or of one who is healed, like the paralytic in the Gospels. It is necessary, then, to recognize the redemption won by Christ.
The Pope told the story of a philosopher who criticized Christians:
“He said he was an agnostic or an atheist, I’m not sure, but he criticized Christians, and said this, ‘But those people – the Christians – say they have a redeemer. I will believe it, I will believe in the redeemer when they have the look of the redeemed, joyful for being redeemed.’ But if you have the face of one at a wake, how can they believe that you are redeemed? That your sins have been forgiven? This is the first point, the first message of today’s liturgy: You are forgiven, each one of us is forgiven.”
Joy because the Lord walks with us
The second aspect, the Pope said, is to be joyful because the Lord “walks with us”; from the moment when He called Abraham He “is in our midst,” in the midst of our trials, our difficulties, our joys, in every moment of our life. For this reason, Pope Francis said, we should take time during the day to speak with the Lord, “who is by our side,” who is involved in our daily life.
Pessimism is not Christian
The third aspect of true joy is to not allow ourselves to throw up our arms in despair in our misfortunes:
“That pessimism is not Christian. It is rooted in not knowing that one is forgiven, rooted in never feeling the caresses of God. And the Gospel, we could say, makes us see this joy: ‘Joyful Mary rose up and went in haste…’ Joy brings us in haste, always, because the grace of the Holy Spirit does not recognize slowness, it doesn’t recognize it… The Holy Spirit always goes in haste, always pushes us: going forward, forward, forward, like the wind in the sails, on the boat.”
Rise and rejoice
Summing up, the Pope described the joy that made the baby leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth when she welcomed Mary:
“This is the joy that the Church tells us about: please, we are joyful Christians, we make every effort to show that we believe we are redeemed, that the Lord has forgiven us everything, and if we sometimes slip up, He will also forgive us, because He is the God of forgiveness; that the Lord is in the midst of us; and that we will not allow ourselves to throw up our arms in despair. This is the message for today: ‘Rise up!’ This is the call of Jesus to the sick: ‘Rise up, cry out with joy, rejoice, be glad and exult with all your heart!’”
Translated by Christopher Wells