Father Stefan reflects on Pope Francis Homily May 23 ” A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian”

Pope  Francis says, “A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. I once said there are Christians with sour faces…Always with a long face! Some souls are like this, this is bad! They are not Christians. A Christian without Joy is not a Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, even in persecution.”

Saint Phillip Neri was filled with joy, “The catacombs of St. Sebastian were one of Philip’s favorite places for prayer. It was there that, around age 29, Philip experienced a kind of personal Pentecost—a divine encounter with the Holy Spirit that proved to be the source of the fire of joy that ignited the rest of his life. His biographers reveal that this episode was little known about Philip until after his death.

[Antonio] Gallonio, his first biographer tells us: “It was habitual with Philip to pray each day to the Holy Spirit, and with great humility to ask Him for His gifts and graces.” As he was thus praying again with great devotion in 1544, “he suddenly felt himself divinely filled with the power of the Spirit with such force that his heart began to palpitate within his body and to be inflamed with such love that, his nature being unaccustomed to such a palpitation of the heart, he indicated that he was completely unable to bear it.”

According to the testimony of Pietro Consolini, a special confidante of Philip’s last years, Philip saw a ball of fire enter into his mouth and then felt his breast expand over his heart. The sensation of inner fire was so strong that Philip threw himself onto the ground and cried out, “Enough, Lord, enough! I cannot take anymore!” . . .

This experience of God’s love gave Philip an unbounded joy, “a gladness of divine love.” (Paul Türks of the OratoryPhilip Neri, The Fire of JoyAlba House, 1995, pp. 16-17; translation by Daniel Utrecht)

Joy is the surest sign of the presence of God. St Theresa of Avila said that she only started to worry about a sister if she lost her sense of joy. We read in Galatians, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” (Gal 5;22) To have the joy of the Lord you need to be a little fruity. Come Holy Spirit and fill us with the joy of the Lord. 

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