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The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium by…
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The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium

by Pope Francis, Pope Francis

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Like many outside of the Catholic faith, I am a great admirer of the current pope. Francis was elected upon Pope Benedict XVI’s retirement in 2013. When he chose the name Francis (after the 12th Century Franciscan founder) and wowed the world with his simple, generous lifestyle, many have seen fresh winds of change blowing in Rome. In terms of theology, he is not significantly different from his predecessors. He lacks Benedict’s keen theological acumen (no insult here, Ratzinger is brillant!); however here is a pope who is pastorally sensitive and attentive to those on the margins. If there are indeed winds of change blowing in the Catholic church, it is one of tone.

This is what makes Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) so refreshing (yes I know it has been out a while and I’m late to the party). This is his second encyclical (though his first is regarded as largely Benedict’s work). Reading as an outsider, I hear the importance this pope places on gospel proclamation, that the church and all the faithful are given the missional responsibility of making disciples. He also stresses that the church and its ministers need to be thoughtful about how best to engage in the work of evangelization–that this involves holistic mission and care for the poor, as well as thoughtful ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. While many of his examples (and source material) make the most sense to the Catholic faithful, those of us in the other ‘ecclesial communions’ will also find in Francis an appropriate challenge toward holistic, generous and joyful proclamation.

Much of what Francis says here is rooted in Lumen Gentium (Light of Nations) from the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican II. Francis speaks to the following issues:

a) the reform of the Curch 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 missions (17)

These seven topics give shape to the Pope’s discourse (notice that the alleged economic preoccupation of the Pope is couched and made subservient to the larger question of Christian mission). Reading as a Protestant, I found I could affirm much of what is said here. I still have many points of theological contention ( such as the authority of the pope, differences on ecclesiology and soteriology) but this is such a generous and magnanimous presentation so I don’t much feel like fighting with the pope. As a preaching pastor I especially loved his words about homily preparation (145-159). As an advocate for mission with justice, I think this is a rich resource for us (especially 176-257).

Yet as I said above, what I appreciate most is tone. This is a book about the joy: joy in Christ through the church. Proclamation is not the main papal imperative here. Joyful proclamation is. Francis calls us back to the idea that the gospel–good news!–is joyful:

There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is . . .But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness . . . It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17,21-23,26) (paragraph 6).

I have heard too many ex-Catholics bemoan their Catholic guilt. I have heard far too much from somber saints. How nice to hear a robust ode to Catholic Joy! Well done Papa Frank! 5 Stars.

Notice of material connection: I recieved this free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review! ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
Incredibly refreshing after so many years of JP2 and B16. ( )
  Doondeck | Nov 19, 2015 |
Published in the wake of the Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, Evangelii Gaudium calls the faithful to be “missionary disciples” who will proclaim the Gospel across the world, in all places and situations.

The Holy Father isn’t unaware of the challenges to the New Evangelization. He lays out the obstacles — both external and internal — and then encourages Christians to work beyond them through inspiring kerygmatic preaching, living in solidarity with the poor, and renewing our own walk with Jesus.

Pope Francis has good advice for parish leaders, urging them (in his memorable phrase) to “smell of the sheep.”

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis offers his “marching orders” to the Church in the 21st century. May it inspire all Catholic leaders to proclaim the Gospel boldly and with joy at all times. ( )
  sullijo | Jul 5, 2015 |
If Christianity is grounded in “good news,” there should surely be something both joyful and urgent about its message. Instead, all too often leaders of faith seem to turn into political debaters, or puritanical obstructionists. Pope John Paul the 23rd said, “We are not here to guard a museum, but to cultivate a flourishing garden of life.” In this small book, Pope Francis introduces readers into the garden, letting life reveal its colors through wise teaching.

I read this book just after celebrating Christmas. When Pope Francis reminds us how consumerism leads to a world with no room for the poor, I’m reminded anew of “no room at the inn.” But this story starts much earlier than the New Testament, and there are ample Old Testament reminders of the joy to come in messianic times.

The book is formatted into chapters with sections and numbered subsections, ending with a well-laid out index covering such topics as social dialogue; the inclusion of the poor; Mary, Mother of Evangelization (since she carried the Word, it seems a logical calling); and the heart of the Gospel. It’s easy to read one piece at once, then ponder. But equally a reader might skim and dive deep, caught by a sudden bright metaphor, singular explanation, or call to action. The Pope deals “extensively” with his topics, “with a detail some may find excessive,” he confesses. But a lay reader, seeking new joy in faith and evangelization, will find in these words a path to “rejoice in the Lord always.” A preacher (whether Catholic or not) will find wise advice on speaking and preparation. A woman will find a generous reminder that the priest’s sacramental power in no way makes him holier than thou. And a pilgrim will find wise advice on ecumenism.

Yes, there are some complicated words, and some ponderous references, but none of it’s onerous. People, politicians, priests, parishes, bishops, and all, will be called to attention here while practical suggestions and measures are offered, from the needs of the poor to the worship of modern-day idols. This isn’t a book of rules and regulations. It doesn’t hammer home Catholic doctrine to the exclusion of human need. And it’s more than just a collection of wise paragraphs. For Catholics, Protestants, Christians, agnostics, priests, lay people, and more; for anyone remotely interested in what the church is meant to be saying, rather than just what they think they’ve heard it say, this book must surely be essential, and truly joyful, reading.

Disclosure: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Feb 12, 2015 |
This beautiful hardcover edition is a great addition to any spiritual person's library. The pope's thoughts are laid out in nice bite size chunks. Just right for meditation. This would be a good choice for a worship sharing group to read together and discuss. Very challenging and uplifting. ( )
  njcur | Nov 5, 2014 |
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"From a discussion of economic justice to a call for new decision-making roles for women in the Church, The Joy of the Gospel is thought provoking, wide-ranging, and challenging to every Catholic. Those who carefully read it, study it, and pray with it will be ready to take up, with the whole Church, this "new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitalilty"--and, most especially, joy"--Publisher.… (more)

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