Thursday, December 11, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium The Joy of the Gospel

Genuine joy is contagious in the best possible way.  When we have good news, we look forward to sharing it with others in person, over the phone, in a letter, an e-mail, a text, a Tweet, a Facebook message, a they can celebrate with us. 
A marriage engagement, new baby, new job, a long-awaited conversion, another life saved, a loved one who is healed…are all exciting developments we want to shout from the rooftops.     
We have the best Good News there is: God is with us and in us.  He became man, suffered, died, and rose again that we might live life to its fullest.  Our time on Earth isn’t all there is.  Because of the Lord’s infinite love and perfect plan for our salvation, we are invited to spend all eternity with our Creator, Savior, and Father.  It doesn’t get any better than that.
In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (aka The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis expounds upon the advantages of sharing the faith with a spirit of praise and rejoicing.  In a tone and with suggestions reminiscent of St. Francis of Assisi, our pope tells us we are called to reach out to the poor, elderly, outcasts, those who are marginalized or on the fringes of society in our own towns and around the world with the love of Christ. 
Doing what the Lord calls us to do, carrying out His will, taking care of the people He’s placed in our lives, and growing closer to Jesus are what bring us true and lasting joy in life.  Who better than a humble man from Latin America, who recognizes we each have in us a spark of God that is beautiful and unique, to write a proposition for a renewed evangelization? 
The best testimony of how to evangelize joyfully can be seen in the way Pope Francis lives the Gospel each day.  Whether he is washing someone’s feet on Holy Thursday, calling someone he’s never met to share his condolences, or rallying the youth, he illustrates how serving others, compassion, and relationships are essential to missionary work. 
There are great need and suffering all around us.  Many of us have a number of gifts and resources we can use to help others have their most basic needs met.  Are we willing to open our eyes to what is happening in our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, our world, and allow God to transform us to reach out and take action?  If we are, then we’re ready to participate in the new evangelization.          
We are invited to be as cheerful and enthusiastic in our discovery and expression of God’s love as we would be if we had a surprise visit from one of our favorite people on the planet.  Hugs, I’ve missed you, I love you are all part of the effervescent greeting.  You feel your heart leap simply being in a dear one’s presence.    
This past spring I served on a Cursillo Women’s team with a great group.  One of the women on the team lost not one, but two loved ones during our time in formation.  She made a huge impression on me when she quoted this passage from The Gospel of Joy in her talk: “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” If anyone could justifiably be a little grumpy or down, she qualified, but that’s not what she did. 
What's more, she witnessed to me this aspect of the exhortation and included it in her talk:  “Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.”
I finished reading The Joy of the Gospel for the second time in mid-November.  The first time I’d read it was when my mom let me have the copy she’d printed out to read.  It is just as uplifting the second time as it was the first. 
This go-round I was more aware of how difficult it is for me to grasp and exude the sort of hope Pope Francis shows is necessary to draw people closer to Christ.  For much of my life, I’ve taken a very legalistic, rule-oriented approach to things—one that by itself isn’t likely to attract or interest anyone in the Catholic faith.  My husband Kevin’s better at joy than I usually tend to be. 
I find it true poetic justice that while I was rereading The Joy of the Gospel my husband was listening to The United States Catholic Catechism on CD.  Kevin’s not a voracious reader like I am, and he certainly didn’t grow up with a penchant toward knowing and following the rules, like me, so this is definitely a Holy Spirit inspired activity that’s bulking up his knowledge of the faith in which he was raised.  We’ve both been led to grow in areas the Lord knew we needed help with, and hopefully, we’ll be better prepared to live out the joy of the Gospel.

I highly recommend reading and/or rereading The Joy of the Gospel.  I received a free copy of the book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  For more information or to get your own copy of The Joy of the Gospel, click here.
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