THIRTEENTH DAY: Rediscovering the Joy of Being Christian
We know that Jesus is truly the Living God. He is very much alive and we are all joyful about it. So this joy must burst forth (E009).
Like many Christians of his generation, Pierre Goursat had been educated in an austere faith that did not correspond to his optimistic temperament: Many of us have been marked by a dreadful heresy in Catholicism called Jansenism. Even though it was condemned, it lives on everywhere (E006). He found that Christians were not joyful enough: Lord, we thank you for having sent us your Spirit. So give us the faces of risen ones (E009).
Pierre always liked to laugh and joke. The Outpouring of the Spirit made him even more joyful: We laughed all the time: we were so joyful! We were told: “But what is it with everyone laughing, being joyful like that?” (E080). Jesus was alive, he had experienced it, and it filled him with an overflowing, supernatural joy: It was an extraordinary joy (T1), this immense joy of the presence of the Holy Spirit in us (E059). Indeed, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22).
While human joys are fleeting, true joy comes from union with God. It is nourished by prayer: This joy is truly found in adoration of the Eucharist (E039). The joy that the presence of Jesus gives us deepens when we live in an intimate relationship with Him: Lord, keep us in contemplation, joyful contemplation. Make us joyful, but keep us in you. You are our joy (E009).
In his Apostolic Exhortation on Christian joy, Gaudete in Domino, published in 1975, Paul VI wrote: “The secret of the unfathomable joy that dwells in Jesus is the ineffable love with which He knows He is loved by His Father. “Every human being aspires to happiness and needs to be loved: We are joyful because we are loved. We are joyful because we are loved. We love Love and we are transformed by Love (E058). Pierre burned with the desire to tell all the world that they are loved by God, to announce to them this dazzling joy of Love (L007).
At the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel addresses the Virgin Mary with the words “Rejoice” (Lk 1:28) which expresses the joy of the salvation promised to all (cf. So 3:14-17). Mary, marveling at God’s mercy, lets her joy burst forth in the song of the Magnificat. This joy of the fulfillment of the Messianic promises fills her heart when she gives birth to Jesus, the Savior.
Mary’s exultation is also the joy of the Church which resounds on Easter night, when the Exsultet announces the Resurrection of Christ. But, like Mary, we can only experience Easter joy by participating in the mystery of the cross. In fact, Christian joy is inseparable from the cross: we bear the cross, but in joy. Joy is painful, but it is joy (E029).
God is a “stranger” to evil: He does not want it, does not “allow” it. Suffering is always unjustifiable, but it is lighter if we live it united to Christ: If we are very close to Jesus, we do not realize that we are suffering, because we are with him on the cross (E031). When we offer our sufferings with Christ for the salvation of the world, they take on a meaning” (E050). The suffering offered in this way, at times lived to the point of martyrdom, gives the saints the joy of participating in the work of redemption (cf. Col 1:24; 1 Pt 4:13-14). When we accept to “embrace” the Cross, we then experience the joy of the Redeemer.
The followers of Christ have always had to face misunderstanding and persecution. After being beaten, the Apostles left “rejoicing that they were judged worthy to suffer insults for the Name” (Acts 5:41) and Paul exclaimed: “I am overflowing with joy in all our tribulation” (2 Cor 7:4).
Pierre Goursat always tried to remain joyful, in thanksgiving (cf. 1 Thes 4:16-18), even when he suffered or endured opposition: Then we are joy-filled. We must truly to say, like St. Paul: “We are victorious in Him who strengthens us (cf. Phil 4:13; Rm 8:35,37)” (E050).
The “perfect joy” of which Francis of Assisi spoke is similar to the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things for My sake” (Mt 5:11-12).
Pierre Goursat invited his brothers, not to rejoice in trials, but to praise God in trials :
Praise, when we sing with joy or when we suffer, teaches us little by little to praise continually… It is the absolute antidote to evil, especially in the present time of despair (E020).
He recommended that praise be practiced in all circumstances, first when all is well, to be able to continue to do so in more difficult times. Pierre had discovered the power of praise at the international gathering of the Renewal in Rome at Pentecost 1975: Praise was understood. It was a people in praise (T1). He became more convinced of its importance when he visited the American charismatic communities in the summer of 1976.
He then encouraged the members of the Emmanuel to live this joyful praise in prayer groups and each morning, in families at home. To praise God is to manifest His Lordship, His active presence in our lives: Praise is contact with the Living God. So I would like us to explode with joy, literally (E022). It is also a prayer of intercession that opens our hearts to mercy.
The prayer of praise allows us to experience the joy of Heaven by anticipation: When many of us praise, we feel the glory of God with all those brothers and sisters who pray and praise the Lord together. We believe we are already in Heaven! It is magnificent! Pierre often had recourse to what he called “the Union of saints”! In God, everything is joy because everything is a gift. Living in the communion of saints stimulates charity and self-giving. In order for Jesus to give us everything, said Pierre, “we must give Him everything, otherwise, He can do nothing. And at that moment, it’s fantastic, it moves forward (E014).
Jesus promised to give us His joy so that our joy would be “complete”. The condition is to love one another as He loved us and to give our lives for others (cf. Jn 15:11-13): Jesus makes me live! How happy I am, how happy I am! I no longer belong to myself; I have given everything! (24W47).
Through the witness of his life, Pierre allowed many to rediscover the joy of being Christian: Christianity is joy. Apart from joy, we are not in truth, because we are not in love (L007).
Lord, teach me to turn my heart to You, so that on this day, I may praise You with all the Heavenly Church.