Taking his cue from the gospel reading of the risen Christ appearing before his disciples, Pope Francis began by noting how instead of rejoicing over his resurrection, the disciples were struck by fear instead of joy.
“This is a Christian’s disease. We’re afraid of joy. It’s better to think: Yes, yes, God exists, but He is there. Jesus has risen and He is there. Somewhat distant. We’re afraid of being close to Jesus because this gives us joy. And this is why there are so many ‘funeral’ (mournful) Christians, isn’t it? Those whose lives seem to be a perpetual funeral. They prefer sadness to joy. They move about better in the shadows, not in the light of joy, like those animals who only come out at night, not in the light of day, who can’t see anything. Like bats. And with a little sense of humour we can say that there are Christian bats who prefer the shadows to the light of the presence of the Lord.”
But, the Pope continued, Jesus through his resurrection, gives us joy, the joy of being Christians and following him closely, the joy of travelling on the path of the Beatitudes.
“So often, we are either upset by this joy or fearful or we think we have seen a ghost or believe that Jesus is just a way of behaving. ‘We are Christians and so we must behave like this.’ But where is Jesus? ‘No, Jesus is in Heaven.’ Do you talk with Jesus? Do you say to Jesus: ‘I believe that You are alive, that You are risen, that You’re near me. That You will never abandon me’? A Christian life should be this: a dialogue with Jesus, because – this is true – Jesus is always with us, always there alongside us with our problems and our difficulties, with our good works.”
Pope Francis concluded by noting how many times we Christians are not joyful because we are afraid! We’re Christians who have been defeated by the Cross.
“In my country there is a saying that goes like this: ‘When you get burnt by boiling milk, later when you see a cow you start crying.’ These people were burnt by the drama of the Cross and said, ‘No, let’s stop here. He’s in Heaven: that’s all well and good. He is Risen but it’s better that he doesn’t come again because we couldn’t handle it.’ We ask the Lord to do for all of us what he did for the disciples who were afraid of joy: to open our minds: ‘He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures;’ Let him open our minds and help us understand that He is a living reality, that He has a body, that He is with us,that he accompanies us and that He has won. We ask the Lord for the grace to not be afraid of joy.”