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Today’s Gospel for the feast of Christ’s Ascension notes that after Jesus “was taken up to heaven,” his disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.”  They had experienced many remarkable events, ranging from Jesus’ public ministry, his passion and death to his resurrection.  Now, just before his ascension, Jesus tells them: “you are witnesses of these things.”  Yes, they are to be “joy-filled witnesses” of the entire Christ-event.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), describing the Church’s mission in the world today, includes the entire panorama of human experiences as the focus of evangelization.  Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) on the Church in the Modern World asserts in its opening sentence that the “joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of people of this age” are intimately shared by Christ’s followers.  The profound connection that exists between joy and missionary evangelization has very deep roots. 

In 1975 Saint Pope Paul VI wrote two apostolic exhortations for the jubilee year.  His well-known Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN) [Evangelization Today] is probably the best document he ever authored; his little-known Gaudete in Domino (GD) [Christian Joy] was written for Pentecost 1975.  Paul VI affirms the “joy-evangelization” dynamic.  He asserts that “the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness” (EN 21), “the witness of an authentic Christian life” (EN 41); and, this task must be done “with ever increasing love, zeal and joy” (EN 1).  The pope identifies various obstacles which “impede evangelization”; the most serious is “lack of joy and hope” (EN 80).

Paul VI speaks personally to all evangelizers: “Let us preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow” (EN 80).  “May the world of our time … receive the Good News, not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have received the joy of Christ…” (EN 80).

Saint Mother Teresa asserts: “Joy is prayer.  Joy is strength.  Joy is love.  Joy is the net by which you catch souls….  A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love.  Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ.”

Pope Francis’ first document bears the title Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel); in it he mentions joy well over 100 times.  I reserve a discussion of his numerous rich insights on joy for another occasion.

Personally, from my 52 years of overseas mission experience, I am convinced of the intimate

connection between Christian joy and effective evangelization.  If people today do not receive the Christian message from “joyful evangelizers,” I doubt they will receive it at all.  I totally agree with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., who said: “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” 

How deep is your Christian joy—even in the midst of life’s numerous challenges?

  

     James H. Kroeger, MM

  

Prayer for the Ascension of the Lord

By your most wonderful Ascension,

Lord Jesus, you raised up humanity

To the glory of your divinity,

Wedding earth to heaven

And raising the human race

To new dignity in your presence.

We stand on your promise

That you would never abandon us

Nor leave us orphaned in this life.

May everyone who calls out to you

In faith feel the power of your presence

Within us and moving us ever outward

And upward to higher levels of love

And life together with all your saints.

You who have now ascended

Out of our sight, open our hearts

To search and see you here

Among us still: in the poor, the oppressed,

Those who mourn and all who thirst

For justice and peace in our day.

At length when our time on earth

Has ended and our life here is done

Grant us all a place in your Father’s house

Where we might live forever

Praising you who called us and took us

Home with you.

Amen

By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.

   

   

ABOUT MARYKNOLL

We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.

OUR GENERAL COUNCIL

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Lam M. Hua, Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

OUR FOUNDERS

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)

PLACES WE SERVE

EVANGELIZATION, PARISHES, AND PROJECTS

USA

STORIES OF MISSION

(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

Stories of Our Global Mission

The calling of a lifetime

The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.

L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier
“Go where you are needed but not wanted, and stay until you are wanted but not needed.”
– Bishop James E. Walsh, M.M.
First Maryknoll Bishop