Monday, December 2, 2013

The Joy of the Gospel

"What I am trying to express here has a programmatic significance
and important consequences.
I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort
to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion
which cannot leave things as they presently are.
‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough.
Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission’."

(EG, n. 25)
Whose world couldn't use more joy?!  And who hasn't had the sense that the Church, the mystical body of Christ in the world, "cannot leave things as they presently are"?
Although it is book-length and will take a commitment, lay men and women everywhere should consider diving into the full text of Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel.  At this point, I've only finished the first 1/3, but its precious and often pointed commentary, written in a swashbuckling style, offers gems like these:
  • Christ's joy in us: "The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ's cross, constantly invites us to rejoice" (n. 5).
  • The missionaries to the margins: "Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries' in need of the light of the Gospel" (n. 20).
  • The totality of the Christian message: "Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others" (n. 39). 
  • A missionary heart: "never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street" (n. 45).
  • Going forth to offer everyone the life of Christ: "I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security" (n. 49).

Some passages have been widely quoted, but it's always helpful to check out the broader context within which Francis frames his specific call for pastoral and missionary conversion.  For example, the powerful passages on our "economy of exclusion" and the "idolatry of money" merit much meditation from all of us who benefit from and help perpetuate a "financial system which rules rather than serves" (nn. 52-60). 
Likewise, Pope Francis' words about pastoral acedia or spiritual sloth challenge all those who work for the Church to reexamine their own attitudes (nn. 77-101): Am I contributing to a "caravan of solidarity" or is my service marked by a "gray pragmatism" and a "spirit of defeatism"?  Has "spiritual worldliness" drawn me away from the "law of love," which should shape all of my daily interactions?
Here are couple helpful summaries, which can provide a "road map" or a "framework" for Francis' first apostolic exhortation:
  • The Vatican Radio's commentary.
  • The official Vatican Synthesis of the Apostolic Exhortation.
  • The three-minute video clip below gives a brief introduction to the work as a whole. 
Maybe this Advent is the perfect opportunity to study the text, to pray over it, and then to ask how we might put it into action--joyfully.  Joy, after all, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit!  And being "permanently in a state of mission" is, quite simply, what the Church is.

Rejoice always!

P.S.  For other Advent resources, check out this link from the USCCB; remember,"our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand" (Rom 13:12)!

P.P.S.  For another spiritual exercise to consider at the start of the new liturgical year, click on either of these links to receive daily Gospel passages or Catechism passages; let the mission continue!