The much anticipated Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), was released today. Like all other fellow Catholic nerds, I have been poring over the English text of his message. I'm so glad that I was off work today to be able to dive into his words! They are in total a challenging, thirst-quenching balm for the soul of a disciple who sometimes feels out of place in the Church.
Don't get me wrong - I love that Christ called me. I just wonder if we aren't sometimes missing the point. A Church that is so busy looking only inward will close in on itself. If the only thing a person thinks when hearing Catholic is "rules and regulations" or in this culture "hostile to women" or "anti-abortion, anti-gay" we have more than missed the mark.
I crave the day when the average someone hears Catholic and thinks of the lineage of men and women who sacrificed their lives to share the message of salvation. I yearn for the day when people hear Catholic and think of the schools, hospitals, and missions that have taught, healed and saved so many millions of people over the years. Most of all, what I would dearly love is that when people hear Catholic, they don't see "institution," they feel what this work-in-progress convert to the faith feels - "Jesus loves me and has made me for Himself."
The message of Pope Francis, per usual, is filled with so much goodness that my highlighting begins to look like fifty shades of neon.
I'll admit, this doesn't continue through every page of the document, but there are segments that look rather similar (Section 3 is particularly colorful). While I'm soaking this all in, I am not able to digest it all as quickly as many other bloggers given the two hooligans that have boycotted naptime, so I will share a few of the initial passages that struck me from this rainbow. I do hope to be able to sift through the document and pull together some main thoughts that cross denominational borders, and for my non-Christian family and friends, are words that lead them to encounter Christ and know the Love I have come to know.
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. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. (EG, 3)
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. (EG, 6)
Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met. (EG, 7)
I will leave it at that for now. If you would like to read the full document, and I really do recommend it, you can download the PDF version here. (Incidentally, way to go Vatican! Something good came of the Brandon Vogt brouhaha it seems. Sorry Brandon had to be raked over the coals to increase accessibility, though...)
I'm off to eat some Skittles now...
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