Move Past Obstacles with Joy

Pope Francis, in his daily homily on February 14, spoke on how a Christian is to deal with the obstacles he/she will inevitably face in living out the Christian life. His comments struck home in several ways to me, thinking about the obstacles a deacon faces in ministry, and the temptation toward either idleness/defeatism or self-promotion/egoism.

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It worth our time to reflect on this week.

To walk, to move forward past difficulties. This is the attitude the Christian must have, because it is part of his identity. A Christian who does not move forward, has an identity that is “not well”. Pope Francis said these words at the Mass he celebrated on Friday morning, 14 February, in the Chapel of Santa Marta. He recalled the story of the two brothers, Cyril and Methodius, Europe’s patrons, whose feast day we celebrate today. They were sent as disciples to bring the Christian message into the world, and this, the Pope said, “makes us reflect on the ‘identity of the disciple’”, the Christian identity.

 “Who is the Christian?” the Pope asked. How does the Christian behave? He answered that: the Christian “is a disciple. He is a disciple who has been sent. The Gospel is clear: the Lord sent them out saying: Go, go forward! And this means that the Christian is a disciple of the Lord who walks, who always goes forward. There is no such thing as an idle Christian. A Christian who remains still has an identity that is “ not well”. We recall the proclamation in the Psalms which repeats that the Christian is precisely a disciple who walks, who moves: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel” (cfr. Ps 115).

For the Christian, to walk also means “to move past difficulties”. To explain this, Pope Francis referred to the day’s Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (13.46-49), in which Paul and Barnabas are at Antioch in Pisidia, and seeing that the Jews would not follow them, they “move on to the Gentiles: moving forward!”.

He added that Jesus did the same at the wedding at Cana, “he continued on: those who were invited did not come; all found a reason not to go. What does Jesus say? That we should not have a celebration? No! He says to go to where the streets converge and invite all people, good and bad. This is what the Gospel says. But even the bad people? Yes, even the bad people! Everyone! The Christian walks, he moves past difficulties and announces that the Kingdom of God is near”.

The second aspect of the Christian identity is that it “must always remain as a lamb. There is an old Easter antiphon we sing with the words: these are the new lambs, the baptized. The Pope referred to the passage from Gospel of Luke (10:1-9) which was proclaimed just a short while ago. He said: “The Christian is a lamb and needs to preserve the identity of being a lamb: ‘Go, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves’”. David, the Pope recalled, did not accept the armour that was offered for fighting the Philistines: he could not move, he would not have been “himself, humble, the simple David. In the end he took his slingshot and won the battle”. We must therefore remain as lambs and “not become wolves. Sometimes”, the Pope continued, “temptation causes us to think: ‘this is difficult, these wolves are clever and I could be even more clever than they are!’”. Therefore we must remain “as lambs, not as fools, but as lambs. Lambs with Christian guile, but always as lambs. If you are like a lamb the Lord will defend you. But if you feel as strong as the wolf, he will not defend you, he will leave you alone. And the wolves will viciously eat you”.

To show the third element that characterizes the Christian, the Pope posed a question: “How does the Christian walk as a lamb?”. He replied with one word: “Joy”. “In his Book, Isaiah tell us: how beautiful are the messenger’s feet, who announces peace on the mountains, who come to tell us that the Lord is King. These are people who rejoice because they know the Lord and carry him”. The Pope added: “Joy is the way of the Christian. The Christian cannot walk without joy. You cannot walk as a lamb without joy”. It is the attitude the Christian must have, even in the face of difficulty, in times of trouble, and even “after he errs and sins”, because “Jesus akways forgives and helps us, and there is always joy”.

Therefore, the Pope repeated, the Gospel must be brought into the world by lambs who walk with joy. “The Church is not a favour they are doing for the Lord”, he clarified. “Those Christians are mourning, always living this way, and are sad, complaining about everything. This is not the attitude of a disciple. St Augustine says: Go, go forward, sing and walk with joy!”. That is the Christian attitude: to proclaim the Gospel with joy. “Too much sadness and bitterness causes us to live Christianity without Christ”. The Christian is one who never stands still, but always moves forward beyond difficulties. And he does this with strength and joy. “May the Lord”, the Pope concluded, “grant us the grace to live as Christians who walk as lambs and with joy”.

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
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