This short prayer, one of the Sayings and Prayers of the Mad Farmer, by Wendell Berry is a favorite of mine. I have quoted it at many funerals in the past thirty-eight years of my priesthood. It re-framed walking through the dead and dying leaves of fall.
In his book, Evangelizing Neopagan North America, Alfred C. Krass states that Evangelism will arise out of the community, which lives out the message of God’s grace. At first glance this statement seems obvious. “Of course we live out the message of God’s grace!” But do we? If we do how do we know that we are doing so. What does it look like?
The word evangelist means one who bears good news. It is always used in a context of joy, at least from the point of view of the messenger. Here we gain a significant clue. Grace always travels with her companion joy. Grace is the good news that salvation of God in Christ Jesus is free! It is a gift that cannot be earned. It can only be accepted never gained by any effort on the part of humanity. As one reflects on the mystery of such love joy is the authentic response of the heart’s delight in the love of God. Joy is the state of being of one who has experienced the message of grace. There is movement in the imagination of the soul and such movement produces outward effect.
Joy makes the bearer of good news attractive and draws the hearer. Joy comes from the heart and communication from the heart will penetrate the shell around other hearts. I have always be suspicious of those who felt it was their duty to inform me of God’s law and the consequences of not receiving their “good news” on their terms. No
Grace imparts joy and grace plus joy = gratitude. If we want to know how we are doing in our soul’s journey we need only ask, “Are we grateful?” For gratitude is the sign of grace and joy. .
Note: The angels appearing to the shepherds in the Christmas gospel bring news of great joy.