Re: The Pope, Again

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

For what it’s worth, Andrew, the document, Evangelii Gaudium, from the top is addressed to: 

TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY,
CONSECRATED PERSONS
AND THE LAY FAITHFUL
ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL
IN TODAY’S WORLD

The pope writes: 

In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.

He continues: 

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.

Specifically addressing “the scope and limits” of the document, he writes:

Countless issues involving evangelization today might be discussed here, but I have chosen not to explore these many questions which call for further reflection and study. Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world. It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound “decentralization”.

This is a fruit of the Synod for the New Evangelization that was convened last year by Pope Benedict at the beginning of our Year of Faith. He’s transparent about the fact he did some picking and choosing from the proceedings and from consultations, saying what he thought he should be saying right now. You hear a whole lot of what he has been saying these past months about mercy, about our disposable culture, about joy. He’s very clearly and directly addressing those who profess to be Christian, open to a Trinitarian life. Live it, already, is no small part of the point. There are echoes of the Aparecida document that he took a lead in putting together back when a cardinal in Buenos Aires. 

He gets even more specific:

Here I have chosen to present some guidelines which can encourage and guide the whole Church in a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality. In this context, and on the basis of the teaching of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, I have decided, among other themes, to discuss at length the following questions:

a) the reform of the Church in her missionary outreach;
b) the temptations faced by pastoral workers;
c) the Church, understood as the entire People of God which evangelizes; 
d) the homily and its preparation;
e) the inclusion of the poor in society;
f) peace and dialogue within society;
g) the spiritual motivations for mission.

18. I have dealt extensively with these topics, with a detail which some may find excessive. But I have done so, not with the intention of providing an exhaustive treatise but simply as a way of showing their important practical implications for the Church’s mission today. All of them help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). 

Be Easter people, people who actually believe this stuff about Christ and redemption. 

Toward his conclusion he writes:

Spirit-filled evangelizers are evangelizers who pray and work. Mystical notions without a solid social and missionary outreach are of no help to evangelization, nor are dissertations or social or pastoral practices which lack a spirituality which can change hearts. These unilateral and incomplete proposals only reach a few groups and prove incapable of radiating beyond them because they curtail the Gospel. What is needed is the ability to cultivate an interior space which can give a Christian meaning to commitment and activity. Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervour dies out. The Church urgently needs the deep breath of prayer, and to my great joy groups devoted to prayer and intercession, the prayerful reading of God’s word and the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist are growing at every level of ecclesial life. Even so, “we must reject the temptation to offer a privatized and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity, to say nothing of the implications of the incarnation.” There is always the risk that some moments of prayer can become an excuse for not offering one’s life in mission; a privatized lifestyle can lead Christians to take refuge in some false forms of spirituality.

I’m delighted everyone seems to be interested in what this pope has to say. And I realize much of what I just quoted does not make for hot news headlines, but this is the authenticity he is urging Catholics to. He’s pointing Christians to Christ and the Gospel and the mission to evangelize. Who the heck is going to find bickering, whining, miserable “Catholics” compelling? That’s not a Gospel of joy, that’s not the Gospel, if there is no hope in your life.

I didn’t mean to go on again about this, but he actually is very directly and specifically talking to Catholics within the Church in Evangelii Gaudium. It’s not a letter to the G-20. Delighted others want to read it. But I hope people do actually read it. There’s a lot proposed. Food for thought, prayer, mission work.

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