Earlier today Pope Francis issued his first Apostolic Exhortation. Titled Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospel), the 224-page document outlines the Pope’s vision for a missionary Church, whose “doors should always be open,” and touches on numerous themes, including evangelization, peace, priesthood, homiletics, social justice, the family, respect for creation, faith and politics, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, and the role of women and of the laity in the Church.
I couldn’t wait to dig into this exhortation, because I suspected it would be jam-packed with observation, insight, frankness, and the enthusiasm so characteristic of this Holy Father. I was right. It was. Pope Francis doesn’t mince words; he’s open and honest in covering the topics he addresses.
The two sections I found most engrossing were the ones on the priesthood and homiletics and the one on tending to the poor. Pope Francis’ remarks on distribution of wealth were eyebrow raising and could be misconstrued if not viewed through a Catholic lens. The evangelization theme is clearly and concretely threaded through every paragraph – we evangelize in everything we think, say, and do and in every moment and circumstance of our lives. In the way the Holy Father presents it, evangelization is a responsibility, but more importantly, it’s a joy. Hence, The Joy of the Gospel.
Personally, I think Evangelii Gaudll make excellent spiritual reading for Advent, and I highly recommend that you do that. Until then, I’ve pulled what I believe to be the fifteen best quotes from the document. Each one is mouthful that will give you a mindful:
1. Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. (3)
2. A proposal of goals without an adequate communal search for the means of achieving them will inevitably prove illusory. (33)
3. We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness. (42)
4. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. (59)
5. God does not hide himself from those who seek him with a sincere heart,even though they do so tentatively, in a vague and haphazard manner. 71
6. Wherever there is life, fervour and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations will arise. (107)
7. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. (120)
8. We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders. (171)
9. Any Church community, if it thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. (207)
10. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. (264)
11. A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise. (266)
12. The work of evangelization enriches the mind and the heart; it opens up spiritual horizons; it makes us more and more sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and it takes us beyond our limited spiritual constructs.(272)
13. Intercession is like a “leaven” in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father’s heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them. We can say that God’s heart is touched by our intercession, yet in reality he is always there first. (283)
14. She (Mary) is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization. (284)
15. As mother of all, she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love. (286)
Here’s the link to the Vatican website where you can find Evangelii Gaudium in its entirely. Enjoy! http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html