Since 2000, Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais has expressed his opinion on a variety of faith topics. These texts were initially published in the "Ask the Religion Experts" column which appears every Saturday in The Ottawa Citizen. As of June 2005, Msgr. Patrick Powers, Vicar General, will be taking on the responsibility of the weekly articles.

If closeness to God is so wonderful, why does goodness seem so dull?

In sacred scripture, closeness to God is anything but dull! Joy quickly emerges as a central characteristic of our relationship with God. In his letter to the Galatians (5:22-23) Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit which embody the life of a Christian. They include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness. At the beginning of the Easter Vigil, which is the central celebration of our liturgical year, we sing the Exsultet: "Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!" In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says "Rejoice in the Lord, always"(4:4). Throughout the Gospels, we are reminded that the service of God and neighbour has a fulfilling quality.

Far more than a feeling or a state of mind or a mere heightened sense of pleasure, joy in the Christian life refers to a basic disposition and a fundamental attunement to the self-giving of God in Christ. To rejoice in the midst of suffering puts a strain on our ordinary conception of enjoyment. This is because the joy of which Scripture and our tradition speak takes a particular object - the revelation of God in Christ. Thus, Mary, in her Magnificat rejoices in "God, my saviour".

Such joy is not contingent upon fortune, good or bad, but is grounded in faith that God is Creator and Redeemer of the world. Because of Gods covenant, the psalmist calls upon us to "sing joyfully unto the Lord" (Ps. 98:4). Thus, joy occupies a central place among the Christians attitude while living his or her faith in God. While, in some spiritualities a certain ecstatic state can be attained from time to time, the principal aim of the Christian life is to serve God and neighbour joyfully - and that profound and abiding and deep joy, is anything but dull!