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Edification and joy

We asked the Holy Father for a message which we could bring back to our dioceses... His message was simple: we are to live the gift of our faith with joy. Joy was his great emphasis. He explained that this joy is rooted firmly in our relationship with Jesus. It is a joy of knowing he is with us; of knowing the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, drawing and guiding us towards the will of God; a joy of knowing our Heavenly Father is waiting for us, longing to hold us in his embrace of loving mercy... He added that this joy is the source of lasting peace in our hearts and lives, no matter our circumstances. 

From the Bishops' statement at the end of their ad limina visit

This message from Pope Francis came to me as I was thinking about today's saint. Francis of Assisi - a patron of Italy as well as of the pope - was certainly a man known for the tremendous, deep joy with which he was filled. This was a joy which permeated him beyond any sort of physical or material comfort; a true, enduring joy which, as the pope wishes for us, was the source of lasting peace in Francis' heart and life, no matter his circumstances. And it's a graced joy which so many of us, who can so easily slide into grumbling and disconsolation and a despairing view of the state of our world, certainly need to pray for and cultivate.

Joy, for Francis, was a consequence of a life lived congruently and whole-heartedly for God, in imitation of Jesus, and in humble gratitude and constant wonder at creation. But this was not his initial call: that came the moment he heard the crucifix in the dilapidated little church of San Damiano tell him, Francis, go and rebuild my church, which, as you see, is falling down. That was in 1206: eight centuries later the Church is still in need, more than ever, of rebuilding. We can certainly commend it to the prayers of St Francis, but I realise, too, that today gives us all a good reminder to ask ourselves what we are doing - and what else or more we could do - to help with the rebuilding of our Church, and its bruised and hurting members.

Of course, Francis would no doubt remind us of the simple truth he discovered for himself: that our primary and most important rebuilding process has to begin within. When we build and rebuild our lives and our hearts in Christ, then, surely, we will find the means and the grace with which to build up others, including our Church; to become people who 'edify' - a word whose origins lie in building or construction. And surely joy has to be part of this: because who doesn't feel built up, or edified, when we are with someone radiating the deep, quiet, leavening joy which can only come from a life firmly rooted and built in God?


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