Pope Francis explains that joy is not a sentiment, but a grace, and the source of strength. Mass intention: for pharmacists
In these days, they’ve scolded me because I forgot to thank another group of people who are also working … I thanked the doctors, nurses, volunteers … “But you forgot the pharmacists!” … they also are working hard to help the sick get through this illness. Let us also pray for them.
Thus was the pope’s prayer intention for morning Mass on April 16.
His homily focused on a particular verse that leads him, he said, to include the Gospel of today among his favorites. Here is a translation of the transcription:
In these days, in Jerusalem, people experienced so many sentiments: fear, awe, doubt. “As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them …” There isn’t an environment of peace because things were happening that they didn’t understand.
The Lord went to his disciples. They knew that he had been raised, and Peter also knew because he had spoken with him that morning. The two who had returned from Emmaus knew … but when the Lord appeared, they were afraid. “But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
They had the same experience they’d had on the lake when they saw Jesus walking on the water.
In that moment, Peter, taking courage, committing to the Lord, said, “If it’s you, tell me to walk on the water.” But on this day, Peter stayed silence; he had spoken with the Lord that morning, and no one knows what was said in that dialogue, and for this, he stayed silent.
But they were so afraid, startled, that they believed they were seeing a ghost. And he says, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself …” He shows them the wounds. This treasure that Jesus took to heaven to show it to the Father and intercede for us. “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones …”
And afterward comes a phrase that gives me a lot of consolation and because of it, this passage of the Gospel is one of my favorites. “While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed …” They were still full of awe, and the joy prevented them from believing. The joy was so much that, “no, this can’t be true. This joy isn’t real. It’s too much joy.” And this prevented them from believing. The joy. The moments of great joy. They were flooded with joy, even paralyzed with joy.
Joy is one of the hopes that Paul has for his people of Rome: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy,” he says. Fill with joy, fill with joy. This is the greatest experience of consolation, when the Lord makes us understand that this is something other than being joyful, being positive, bright. No, this is something else. To be joyful, but full of joy, a flood of joy that truly touches us.
Because of this, Paul hopes for the Romans, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy.” And this word, this expression, full of joy, is repeated many, many times. For example, when it happens in the prison that Paul saves the guard’s life, because he was about to commit suicide since the gates had opened with the earthquake. Paul announces the Gospel to him, baptizes him, and the guard, the Bible says, was “full of joy because he had believed.” The same thing happened with the minster of the treasure of Candace, when Philip baptized him and disappeared, he “went on his way rejoicing.” The same thing happened on the day of the Ascension: The disciples returned to Jerusalem, the Bible says, “full of joy.”
This, the plenitude of consolation, the plenitude of the presence of the Lord. Because, as Paul says to the Galatians, “joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.” It is not a consequence of emotions that explode because of something marvelous … no, it’s more. This joy that fills us is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit, you can’t have this joy. To receive the joy of the Spirit is a grace.
I remember the last numbers, the last paragraphs of Paul VI’s exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, when he speaks of joyful Christians, joyful evangelizers, in contrast with those who always live discouraged. Today is a beautiful day to read it. Full of joy. This is what the Bible tells us: “While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed …” it was so much that they couldn’t believe it.
There is a passage from the book of Nehemiah that will help us today in this reflection on joy. The people who returned to Jerusalem found the book of the law, it was discovered anew, because they knew the law by memory, but the book of the law they couldn’t find … a great celebration and all of the people gathered to hear Ezra the priest read the book of the law.
The people were moved and cried, they cried from joy because they had found the book of the law. They cried. Their weeping was from joy. At the end, when Ezra the priest finished, Nehemiah told the people, “Be calm. Don’t cry more now. Stay joyful, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This verse from the book of Nehemiah will help us today. The great strength that we have in order to change, to preach the Gospel, to go forward as witnesses of life is the joy of the Lord, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and today we pray that He gives us this fruit.