Faces on Faith: The joy of World Youth Day
As I write this reflection I have just been viewing television coverage of World Youth Day XXXI, a gathering of the world’s Catholic youth in Krakw, Poland. Literally, millions of young people from over 187 countries throughout the world gathered together to celebrate God’s incredible mercy. At the center of their celebration was an untypical 79 year-old cheerleader, a man all of them call Father, the Holy Father, Pope Francis. In spite of the inclement weather that often plagued them, in spite of the hardship of sleeping on damp ground or in overcrowded rooms, those young people displayed an enthusiasm and a joy that was dramatically visible. Lately, television seems to be overwhelming us with pictures of sadness and grief, moments of unbridled violence which cause nothing but pain and sorrow. How refreshing it was to see that same television give us a powerful glimpse of jubilation and joy.
To be joy-filled about things religious is a genuine gift, and one can only hope that those young people as yet unfamiliar with hardship, challenges, or loss, will be able to muster a similar joy in the years to come. For the moment, their example provides a challenge to all who strive to be joy-filled in a very troubled world, and perhaps they remind us of a time when spontaneous joy was more easily shown. Their example is the very best advertisement that organized religion can so often help to guide us to a place where joy is possible, to a place where a life can be lifted up above the challenges of the ordinary worlds in which we live, lifted up to a place where we can see all the good that surrounds us. In the Christian Scriptures Jesus tells us boldly that he has come into the world to bring us joy, a “joy the world cannot give,” a joy that is permanent and lasting. It is that joy that we steadfastly seek. It is that joy that is not threatened by the things of this world. It is that joy that gives us comfort when hardships and difficulties overwhelm us.
Let’s face it, when some of us are gathered together for worship we sometimes look far from happy. Instead of wallowing in the never-ending mercy of a generous God we allow ourselves to be brought low by the cares and concerns of the day, and our countenance does more to discourage than to uplift. Let the example of a million young people from around the world inspire us always to be joy-filled. Let their harmonious flag-waving enthusiasm remind us that people of different backgrounds, speaking a variety of different languages, can happily exist as one when God is at the center of their lives.
Father Christopher Senk, St Isabel Catholic Church.