In the apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("Joy of the Gospel"), Pope Francis wrote that "an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come from a funeral!"
Likewise, he has frequently admonished priests "not to look so glum" after or while celebrating Mass. And he reminds priests that "the confessional must not be a torture chamber."
His message is simple and quite clear: The good news, the Eucharist and the sacraments should be shared with great joy, whether by clergy, religious or lay people. After all, salvation will be joyous, with heaven and eternity in God's kingdom ahead, and it will be brought forth by Jesus Christ's Resurrection, forgiveness of sin and repentance.
Salvation is the reward of the joy in sharing the Gospel, and it starts with "Our Joyful Encounter with the Lord," a pastoral letter by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson about living the joy of the Gospel in St. Louis, with the most recent installment in this issue of the St. Louis Review. The introduction was in the Review issue dated Oct 23-29. Subsequent sections will be published in February and April.
"Grateful remembrance," as Pope Francis calls it, follows the "encounter." "Joyful witness," as Archbishop Carlson writes, follows "grateful remembrance."
By giving witness, we evangelize in serving as the face of Christ for everyone we meet. As Archbishop Carlson writes, "We don't need to do big things. We need to do every little thing in God's love."
Being a missionary disciple doesn't require grand gestures or big movements that scream "look at me, look at me." The Gospel of Mark addresses this in chapter 6:
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them ... When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others ... When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them ... When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting."
Missionary disciples should be the face of Christ without drawing attention to themselves. The action might be as simple as smiling and greeting a passerby, holding the door or letting another driver proceed at an intersection. Little things, simple gestures of kindness and smiles go a long way in sharing the joy of Gospel, the joy of the good news.
And this is the season of joy, with Advent preparing the way of the Jesus' birth at Christmas.
"Joy to the world! The Lord is come; let earth receive her King!"