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Apostolic Movement

Joy is the mark of a Christian – Have you smiled at anyone today?

By: Fr. Léonce Ntakirutimana

One day, before I left Chile where I had been on a mission for over a year, someone came up to me and said, “Father, let nothing take away your joy.” He had never seen me sad, he told me.

First of all, I would like to express this request to you: Do not let anything come into your life that can take away your joy, because “a Christian who is unhappy, sad, dissatisfied or, even worse, prey to resentment is not credible”, insisted Pope Francis during his general audience on November 15, 2023.

As Christians, we must be men and women of joy

On this fourth Sunday of Lent, called “laetare Sunday” or “joy Sunday”, we are invited to rejoice and exult.

What is the reason for this joy? This is the great love of God towards humanity: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him shall not be lost, but should have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). These words, spoken by Jesus during his dialogue with Nicodemus, synthesize a theme which is at the center of the Christian message: even when the situation seems hopeless, God is always there, he intervenes, offering man salvation and joy.

Sadness gives way to hope, to joy

We are invited to pay attention to this announcement, rejecting the temptation to be sure of ourselves, to want to do without God, by claiming absolute freedom in relation to Him and his Word. Our God is a faithful God, he is patient, slow to anger, he never rejoices in the death of a sinner, but he always delights in forgiving so that we can all find the joy of living: “Return to me with all your heart! » he exhorted us through the mouth of the prophet Joel, on Ash Wednesday.

When we find the courage to recognize ourselves as we are – and that takes courage! – we realize to what extent we are people called to settle accounts with our fragility and our limits. It can therefore happen to be overcome by anxiety, by worry about tomorrow, by fear of illness and death. This explains why so many people, in seeking a way out, sometimes take perilous paths such as drugs, superstitions or ruinous magical rituals. It is good to know our limits, our fragilities, we must know them, but not to despair, but to offer them to the Lord; and He helps us on the path to healing, he takes us by the hand and he never leaves us alone, ever! God is with us and that is why we “rejoice” today: “Rejoice, Jerusalem,” they say, for God is with us.

And we have true and great hope in God the Father, rich in mercy, who gave us his Son to save us, and this is our joy. We also have a lot of sadness, but when we are true Christians, there is this hope which is a little joy which grows and which gives you security. We must not be discouraged when we see our limits, our sins, our weaknesses: God is there, close, Jesus is on the cross to heal us. It is the love of God. Look at the Crucifix and say to ourselves: “God loves me”.

We are like children

I once said: as human beings, we are in this life like children learning to walk, we rise and we fall, but we have a Mother who picks us up. She awaits us at the Shrine, she wants us to be able to bring to her our daily efforts of sanctification so that she makes us joyful men, capable of radiating this joy around us. May she put in our hearts the certainty that we are loved by God. May she be close to us in times when we feel alone, when we are tempted to capitulate to the difficulties of life. May she communicate to us the feelings of her Son Jesus, so that our Lenten journey becomes an experience of forgiveness, welcome and charity.

*Fr. Léonce Ntakirutimana, Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt Fathers, Burundi



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