Fr DaveDear Friends

        In the last few years, I have had the privilege of participating in staff presentations at both of our Augustinian Colleges on the Augustinian Charism and core values – Community, Truth, Love and Interiority. Other values connected with these hold them together and bring them to life as a way of following Jesus and living the Gospel. One of these is our identity as the Body of Christ and that emerges from our celebration of the Eucharist and reception of Jesus in Holy Communion – what it means for us to be Church.

We need to constantly refresh and deepen our understanding of the Church. One of Pope Francis’ most important contributions to our understanding of the Faith is a fresh paradigm or model of ‘church’ – particularly significant in our time when many struggle with their experience of the Church – to quote one source, ‘The glass in our window is dirty, obscuring our view, discouraging some from even bothering to look!’

Francis has been working hard to meet people where they are at, very much a ‘hands-on’ Pope, who from the start has shown true pastoral sensitivity. He demonstrates a remarkable earthiness and directness in speech and is open, inclusive and non-judgemental towards people in all sorts of circumstances, responding with compassion as any genuine pastor should.

The key to this, I believe, is Francis’ preoccupation with the theme of JOY – not a new teaching of the Church but one often overlooked. His Apostolic Letters include: The Joy of the Gospel, The Joy of Love – Love in the Family, Rejoice and Be Glad, Praise be To You and Christ is Alive! Here we have the seeds of an expanded understanding of the Church:

‘The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… With Christ joy is constantly born anew… pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.’ (The Joy of the Gospel 1)

I have written about and preached on Joy many times but I am prompted to reflect on Joy at this time after reading a short article in The Tablet (16 April 2022) by Joy Marie Clarkson, ‘Is it OK to be happy when the world is falling apart?’ Perhaps you, like me, sometimes find it difficult to turn on the radio or watch the news when so many images of a ravaged Ukraine haunt our minds, not to mention numerous other tragic situations in our world. What right have we to be happy in these circumstances? Must we suspend happiness?

 Joy Clarkson suggests that, ‘denying joy cedes ground to injustice and those who perpetuate it.’ Injustice must never be the fundamental reality of life. Certainly, sadness is a reality and reflects a sensitive heart that responds with love for others, just as happiness does. In all of this, the truth is paramount. In its own strange way, grief ultimately brings some healing because grief and love belong together.

Sadness is not our primary call but rather a life of joy that nourishes others in the goodness joy evokes in us. Anger and violence destroy the beauty God seeks in each of us, but the grace of unselfish joy and happiness allows that beauty to shine forth and inspire – friendship, family life, generosity, and ultimately love and peace.   Fr Dave