Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel

This is about Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. You can find it on line in several places, and you can buy a book-sized copy of it from USCCP at www.usccbpublishing.org – and you’ll want to have a copy of it, I promise you.

Here, I just want to say three things (I think it’s three – let’s see).

First, reading this Exhortation gave me the deepest and widest consolation that any document or book has given me since the first appearance of the documents of Vatican II.

Things I half thought and more than half wanted to be true leap up. “Business is a vocation, a noble vocation.” (203)  “Politics…is a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity” because (and maybe if) it cares for the good of all. “Christ’s resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.” (276) It pops up every day when the sun rises and “beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history.”

Second, this document fills in what one of the documents from Vatican II could only sketch out: Gaudium et Spes, Joy and Hope: The Church in the Modern World.  

In fact, this Exhortation is a joy to read and it is deeply colored by hope.  Who had imagined a bishop of Rome saying  about all seven billion human beings that “appearances notwithstanding, every person is immensely holy and deserves our love.” (274 – italics are the pope’s).

Imagine one document holding that “Welfare projects should be considered merely temporary responses” to economic problems and at the same time that “We can no longer trust the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.” (202, 204).

And third (there ARE three!), the reason for its joy and hope is that it is the profoundly personal testimony of a man plainly steeped in hope and scintillating joy in every sentence – except when he gets mad at injustices.

            His very first sentence is like switching on the light in the stadium: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” And the light and warmth keep on through all 50,000+ words – yes, it’s long, really long. 

This is a testament that we have to return to again and again. Far from merely lamenting modern individualism, Francis simply writes that “being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life.” And each of us not only has a mission – it’s deeper than that – “it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth.” (273).

Pope Francis ends with a prayer to Mary, “Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, pray for us.”