-1-I've been slowly reading my way through the first apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium. It is such a beautiful challenge, a call to real evangelization, to sharing first the love of God. All doctrine and dogma comes forth from "the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead." If we cannot share that truth, we have no business trying to enforce anything else. Here are excerpts of some of my favorite parts, so far (up through #64).
-2-Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, [Christians] should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet.
If news is good enough, we're motivated to spread it simply to have someone with whom to share our excitement. Sharing our faith shouldn't feel like an obligation, but should simply spring forth from the joy we have in it.
-3-In today’s world of instant communication and occasionally biased media coverage, the message we preach runs a greater risk of being distorted or reduced to some of its secondary aspects. In this way certain issues which are part of the Church’s moral teaching are taken out of the context which gives them their meaning. The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message. We need to be realistic and not assume that our audience understands the full background to what we are saying, or is capable of relating what we say to the very heart of the Gospel which gives it meaning, beauty and attractiveness.
This is something I've been evaluating in my own life. I seek out others with a faith like mine, looking for encouragement and community. There is value in this, but I wonder if it blinds me to how "the others" perceive the world. I need to keep a healthy balance, staying engaged with society while remaining in a vibrant faith community.
-4-In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them.
This one struck me because I wanted to skim over it. I believe he is absolutely right. Traditions that do not bring us closer to God may be worse than useless if they make new members of our church feel confused or uncomfortable. But, but... I like them! It's not particularly pleasant to see that I think more of my enjoyment than another's soul.
-5-The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.
This will raise some hackles, I'm sure. It is so tempting to justify our closed-door policies, especially in poverty-stricken neighborhoods or in the aftermath of robbery or vandalism of our church building. But again, we cannot put our own pleasure above the possibility of drawing souls to Christ. (It may also be useful to remember this is addressed to the Church throughout the world. There are parts of the world in much worse shape than the most violent areas of our inner cities.)
-6-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? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.
Yeah. Excuse me while I find a mirror so I can get this plank out of my eye.
-7-We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data – all treated as being of equal importance – and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.
Yes yes yes! HOW? I've been discussing this with friends and family recently, even before reading this. We have developed almost no solid plans to improve the current system. This, perhaps, should be a post of its own. Does your parish provide this kind of education? How do they do it?
See more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!