The Joy of the Gospel
On November 26, to mark the conclusion of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis released his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of The Gospel. It’s not an encyclical but an Apostolic Exhortation. What’s the difference? The former has a higher status while the latter is less authoritative. An Apostolic Exhortation invites and persuades whereas an encyclical directs and commands.
Evangelii Gaudium is an Exhortation that is paternal, pragmatic and programmatic. It’s sweeping and bold. It is considered as the blue print for evangelization in the 21st century. Some even call it the blue print of his papacy. Ever since he assumed office, he has been asking everyone to focus on the essentials rather than wasting time on non-essentials. In this Exhortation he has trickled down to the essential according him, namely, evangelization. I can’t remember of a Pope who has not spoken in length about evangelization. What’s new of Pope Francis is that he puts evangelization at the very center of the Church and all other things around it. He asks us to evangelize with our joyful lives and renewed enthusiasm.
Missionary outreach should not be reserved for chancery offices, priests, religious and full time catechists. Rather, “it must be paradigmatic for all the Church’s activities”. “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 from clinging to its own security,” says the Pontiff.
It is sweeping because you can find in this 84-page Exhortation all you wanted a Supreme Pontiff to address. What’s most dramatic is his call to the decentralization of the Church. The role of women in the Church is another issue he touches upon. He addresses material poverty and spiritual poverty with equal importance.
Nonetheless, he has been misconstrued for his critique on free market. While acknowledging business as a noble vocation, Pope Francis says, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hands of the market”. It comes from his concern about poverty in the world, excessive consumerism and materialism. His question, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” speaks it all. He is attacking individualistic, self centered and indifferent mentality.
The bottom line is: The Holy Father is asking us to wake up to the joy of the gospel suppressed by many challenges. Does that remind you of Advent?
Have a Blessed Advent season.
-Fr. Abe