The joy of the Gospel

The joy of the Gospel

The 24th of November, pope Francis awarded us with the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium. An apostolic exhortation is normally promulgated after a Synod of Bishops. It gathers the reflections of the Synod Fathers; it is this case about “The new evangelization in the transmission of faith” that was celebrated in October 2012.

    The Pope expresses his desire to address all the faithful Christians to invite them to a new evangelized stage marked by the joy of the announcement of the Gospel, and to show the paths for the Church in the following years.

    It is a call to all Christians so that they can renew their faith with a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or to at least let be found by Him, so that in this way they can bring the love of Jesus to the others in a permanent mission state.

    The Pope invites us to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, finding new paths and creative methods, to stop enclosing Jesus in “dull categories”[1]. “A pastoral and missionary conversion which cannot leave things as they presently are”[2] and an ecclesiastic “structural reform” “to make structures more mission-oriented”[3] are needed. This conversion must happen in the papacy so that it is “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization”[4]. He also mentions the Episcopal Conferences so that they live a “healthy decentralization”[5]. They must not be afraid of reviewing the customs of the Church “not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots”[6].

    It is an extensive document and we start summarizing chapter four, that talks about “the social dimension of evangelization”[7] that is, as far as we understand, the one that is more linked to the mission entrusted to Justice and Peace, even though the rest of the document also must question us as Christians.

    The mystery of the Trinity reminds us that we were made in the image of that divine communion, so we cannot be saved or fulfilled on our own. There is a tight relationship between evangelization and human promotion. To be loved by God causes a reaction in the believer: to wish, look and take care of the good of the others. To not “lose our amazement, our excitement and our zeal for living the Gospel of fraternity and justice”[8] is needed. What we do for others has a meaningful dimension.

    The Pope reminds us that every Christian and every community is called to be instruments of God for the liberation of the poor, so that they can fully integrate in society. Sometimes this liberation is for the poorest peoples of the planet, so that they, themselves, can be the owners of their destiny. The Pope notices that there is very often a worry about taking care of orthodoxy and, however, it is acted passively against intolerable injustices and against the governments that keep them from happening.

    This liberation attitude towards the poor must not take us to an “unruly activism”[9] towards them but to a real worry for themselves, which will be the basis to look for their own good, dealing with them spiritually as a matter of priority.

    The structural causes that cause poverty must be solved without delay. It is needed that the markets give up their complete autonomy and financial speculation. All economic policy should be articulated having in mind the dignity of every human being and the common good. The current economic system is bothered by the talks of ethics, global solidarity, distribution of goods, preservation of job opportunities, dignity of the weakest and of a God that requires a commitment for justice.

    The growth in equity requires more than the economic growth, because it needs a series of programs, decisions, mechanisms and processes directed towards a better distribution of wealth, the creation of jobs, the full promotion of the poor beyond the mere attendance. The economy must ensure the economic wellbeing of all the countries, not only of a few of them.

   We are called to take care of the most fragile of our planet, we must recognize to suffering Christ in the homeless, the drug addicts, the refugees, the elderly, the abandoned people, the indigenous peoples…The Pope suffers for those that are victims of human-trafficking: clandestine sweatshops, prostitution net, children being used for begging, clandestine economy because people are not legalized and especially women that are victims of exclusion, abuse and violence. Amongst the weakest of the earth are those unborn children.

    This worry must not be only for human beings, but for all the creation too, as we are not mere beneficiaries but defenders of the rest of the creatures.

    Social peace cannot be understood as an attitude to prevent confrontation or as a mere absence of violence. “Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority”[10]. Peace is built every day according to the order wanted by God that entails justice between men.    Social dialogue contributes towards peace. This dialogue has different aspects:

  • Dialogue between faith, reason and sciences. Faith is not afraid of reason: on the contrary, it looks for it because the light of reason and faith comes from God and cannot contradict one another. When the development of the sciences, acting firmly reaches an obvious conclusion, faith does not contradict it.
  • Ecumenical dialogue. The will of Jesus is that “they may all be one” (Jn 17:21)[11]. The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions. This division is particularly serious in those countries shook with violence. We are pilgrims and we go on a pilgrimage together.
  • Relationship with Judaism. The Church, which shares with Judaism a very important part of the Holy Scriptures, cannot consider Judaism as a distant part of her. This makes the Pope “bitterly and sincerely”[12] regret the terrible persecutions the Jewish people had to suffer, especially those involving Christians.
  • Interreligious dialogue. There must be an opening “in truth and in love”[13], in spite of the fundamentalism of both parts, with the believers of non-Christian religions. It must be an opening for them, sharing their joys and sorrows. Like this, we learn to listen to others “in their different ways of living, thinking and speaking”[14] to assume together the duty to serve to justice and peace, that must become a basic criterion of every exchange.
  • Social dialogue, in the context of religious freedom, for the believers to feel near those that are not part of any religious tradition, but that “sincerely seek the truth, goodness and beauty”[15].
  • The Pope ends the exhortation talking about Mary that was given to the believers from the cross as Mother. “Mary is the woman of faith, who lives and advances in faith”[16], being guided by the Spirit. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak, but of the strong.

This “justice and tenderness dynamics of contemplating and walking towards others is what makes her an ecclesiastic model of evangelization”[17].

Isabel Cuenca Anaya


Download the article about Evangelii Gaudium.pdf

[1] Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 11.

[2] Ibid., 27.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 32.

[5] Ibid., 16.

[6] Ibid., 43.

[7] Ibid., 176.

[8] Ibid., 179.

[9] Ibid., 199.

[10] Ibid., 218.

[11] Ibid., 244.

[12] Ibid., 248.

[13] Ibid., 250.

[14] Ibid., 250.

[15] Ibid., 257.

[16] Ibid., 287.

[17] Ibid., 288.