Evangelii Gaudium Day One: A JOY EVER NEW, A JOY WHICH IS SHARED

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Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 4.04.57 PMHappy New Year! If you’re Catholic and you’re reading this, my greeting makes sense as we find one another on the eve of the first day of a new liturgical year and celebrating the dawn of a new Advent.

I love Advent. That wasn’t always the case… In my younger years, Advent’s seemingly penitential nature felt like a “downer” when everyone else was scurrying around celebrating the Christmas season on the day after Halloween. Fast forward into my fifties, and I now find myself craving the solace of this lovely season. And this year, to celebrate in style, we have a gift from our Holy Father Pope Francis: his very first Apostolic Exhortation — Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”.

In communion with several other friends, and spearheaded by the ever-joyful evangelist Kelly Wahlquist, I’ve committed myself to “unpacking” this Advent present during the days leading up to Christmas. At Kelly’s website, you will find an overview of this project  as well as a beautiful video by our friend Thomas Smith answering the question “What is an Apostolic Exhortation?” And today, you’ll also find Kelly kicking us off with her first reflection on the opening paragraphs of Evangelii Gaudium.

My goal for Advent is to visit with you here each day, sharing a few impressions of the paragraphs we are jointly studying in the document and linking to the group reflections at Kelly’s site as well. Some days, my impressions will be longer than others. This is one of those “Can I really do this, Lord?” projects that sometimes stress me out. But I’m hoping that I will see this commitment less as an item on my holiday “to do” list and more as a time of retreat, prayer and conversation with spiritual friends. I invite you to join us in whatever way most joyfully leads you to Jesus Christ this Advent season. If you are blogging reflections on your own, please include links to your thoughts on the days’ section in the comments below. I would love to read what you have to say.

December 1: “A Joy Ever New, A Joy Which Is Shared” (Paragraphs 2-8)

As I was reading today’s portion of EG (as I will call it here), I pondered to myself whether Pope Francis timed this missive to us purposely to be broken open around the time of the Christmas season. Indeed his opening salvo seems like a commentary on the Black Friday madness that initiates what has become of “Christmas” in the US:

The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covertous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. 

But before you get too down in the dumps, I encourage you to read ahead. When you meditate on this opening section of EG, I challenge you to read it with your best Pope Francis accent and that charming smile of his that has a way of lighting up a room. This opening section is filled with incredible hope and the reminder that the joy we have in Christ Jesus is too awesome a gift to be kept to ourselves.

Some of us may be receiving this message in a place of spiritual brokenness, feeling far from Christ and his love. To keep today’s reflection relatively short, I simply want to dwell on the part of this section that most struck me. You’ll find that in paragraph 3, where Pope Francis shares:

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. 

As a mom of young adults, I read this section with the mental picture of my sons ringing in my heart. If you’ve ever lived with teens, you know the sensation of being with a surly young one, filled with attitude, who really doesn’t have the time of day for mom or dad. You know the patience of unconditional love for them, and the joy of that “I love you, Mom!” that comes for no reason in the middle of the day when they’ve had enough food and rest and the stars are perfectly aligned to find them in the best of moods.

I wonder to myself if this is how God feels in those moments when I rush about, too busy to pause and even say, “Thanks God! I love you.” Yet there he is, waiting for me with open arms.

What greater source of joy could there be?

What more awesome example of “good news” to be shared will we find?

Lord, on this opening day of Advent, help me to find total contentment in the embrace of your bountiful love for me. May this Advent journey be a trek ever deeper into your will for my life and a more perfect sharing of your grace with all of those around me. Amen

Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

6 Comments

  1. Paragraph 6 really speaks to me at this point in my life, especially this part:
    “I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).”
    I write this as a 40 year old, married, mother of three boys (2 teenagers and a 10 year old) about 10 days post mastectomy for non-invasive breast cancer. NEVER did I ever imagine that I would be here in these circumstances. How easy it would be to despair and lose faith. The passage from Lamentations is a beautiful way to remind myself that I am not left behind. The Holy Father’s words are very comforting 😉

    • Oh Kimberly, please know that you are in my prayers. I honestly feel the same way about the tone of this teaching. It feels like a warm hug. I don’t know how the document will unfold, but this first section is a true balm to my heart. Prayers for your healing and peace of mind!!

      • Thank-you, Lisa ! Honestly, this writing from the Holy Father could not have come at a better time for me and I bet a lot of others as well. “A warm hug” is a wonderful description.

  2. Love it all, and truth be told, you started with a great nugget of wisdom!

    “When you meditate on this opening section of EG, I challenge you to read it with your best Pope Francis accent and that charming smile of his that has a way of lighting up a room.”

    I’m going to read the whole document now, out loud and in his accent 🙂

    Blessings!

    Kelly

  3. These opening paragraphs are so encouraging and hopeful … and REAL. This joy that Pope Francis speaks of is the authentic kind of joy, and I feel like I already have more of it, and we’ve only unwrapped 8 paragraphs of this early Christmas gift. Pope Francis refers to joy twice (if I’m counting correctly) as quiet. This really struck me …The joy that is “as a quiet yet firm trust.” “The quiet joy of his love.” This is the joy amid suffering. The deep-rooted joy we cling to and that keeps us going, even when life deals us challenges. “No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love.” That is joy!!

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