Cardinal Dolan: Joy is at the heart of evangelization

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Credit: Archdiocese of Boston via Flickr CC BY ND 2.0.

As the Church continues its mission of forming disciples in the 21st century, a key component must be a witness of joy, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

“People may claim that they do not want faith, hope, or love. Rare is the person who does not crave joy,” the New York cardinal said July 1.

Cardinal Dolan was the homilist at the opening Mass for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando.

The unprecedented convocation gathered bishops, priests, consecrated religious, diocesan leaders, and representatives from Catholic ministries, parishes, and organizations. The event drew some 4,000 participants, including members of 155 dioceses and roughly 200 Catholic organizations, and 160 bishops.

Cardinal Dolan reflected on the convocation as a time to acknowledge Christ, and recognize how he “calls us to discipleship, summons us to unity, imparts to us joy, and sends us on mission.”

He pointed to Mary as “a model of discipleship, unity, joy, and mission.”

In the account of the Visitation, he recalled, Mary “has just been told by the Archangel Gabriel that she is to be the mother of our Savior. She is thus the first disciple, attentive to God’s word, open to Jesus; she is eager for unity, closeness with her kin St. Elizabeth; she goes on a mission to tell another the glad tidings of the Lord’s imminent arrival; she and Elizabeth, as well as the two babies in their wombs, Jesus and St. John the Baptist, leap for joy.”

And it is this joy, properly understood, that will attract people to the message of the Gospel, the cardinal continued.

True joy is not merely pleasure, giddiness, or “some syrupy, superficial feel-goodness,” but rather, as St. Paul teaches, a gift of the Holy Spirit.

“How we are tempted to concentrate on problems, worries, bad news, scandals, darkness in the Church. Lord knows we can’t ignore them, but neither can we be dominated by them. We cannot become, in the folksy term of Pope Francis, ‘a Church of sourpusses’.”

Cardinal Dolan noted that the theme of the convention, pulled from the title of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, is “The Joy of the Gospel.”

“In that teaching, the Holy Father proposes that discipleship united for mission will be characterized by and effective only with joy.”

The bishops agree that “a renewal of joy is essential for a deepening of Catholic vitality and confidence today,” he stressed.

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