Enough already with the bad news! Give them the good news. Show them how happy it makes you.
That’s why Francis began his essay with “la alegría del evangelio,” knowing full well that as his Spanish was rendered into the official Latin, then translated to other languages, it would come out starting with the “the joy of the gospel.” Joy first.
The evangelists he wants his fellow Christians to have had the encounter with Christ, experienced “a profound liberation” that has made him or her “more sensitive to the needs of others” and acquire a generous spirit open to the newness that God imbues in an old message.
Here’s where Francis sets me up to tell a modestly irreverent old joke.
You see, there was an old priest who at the community dinner table said grace with everybody, then exclaimed, “Hebrews 13:8!” The first time he heard it, the new young priest went to look up the verse (“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever”) but remained puzzled.
An older colleague told him to insert an exclamation mark after the second word, capitalize the third, then add another exclamation mark at the end of the sentence. Then the new priest got it: calling out the verse citation was a “biblical” way to complain about the same old, same old meals.
I’m sure the pope has heard of this one. Indeed, to those who might be puzzled at finding new ways to preach the same old message Francis offers the following:
Though it is true that this mission demands great generosity on our part, it would be wrong to see it as a heroic individual undertaking, for it is first and foremost the Lord’s work, surpassing anything which we can see and understand.Then he gilds the lily with, you guessed, Hebrews 13:8. So get ready for surprises and laughter around Francis.
Next: Francis’ first agenda item.