Unsurprisingly, given its title, there's a lightness and a joy which suffuses the whole document - even the bits I've found a bit heavy. If the opening lines of any book or article have an important function not just in setting the scene but in setting the tone and grabbing the reader's attention, the opening lines here are no exception: The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.
At its surest and deepest joy is a God-given grace. As I wrote last year (here) it is what Michael Ivens SJ describes as ...the joy which springs from a still-more fundamental grace, that of the faith and love that make the risen Christ, though invisible, the very core of the believer's existence. This, surely, is the joy the pope is writing about: a joy poured into us by our encounter with Jesus; a joy which cannot be contained or kept secret, but can only overflow into all our actions and interactions.