The Joy of the Gospel, Chapter 1

In January and February of this year, I gave a five part series of talks on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium.  I’m fairly happy with how it was received, and more than happy to delve deep into this wonderful document.  I’ve had to read papal documents before, but never one I found so full of life and hope.  For Lent, I’d like to share my notes from those talks.  They won’t be the usual refined discourses I try to post, more stream of consciousness , and the probably will only make sense if you read The Joy of the Gospel at the same time, but that would be an excellent thing.

They do exist in video form, and I’ll give you a link to find them, however I prefer to read text than watch videos, and this is for people like me who prefer the see things in print.

Introduction (Paragraphs 1-18)

St. Therese of Avila said: “God save us from gloomy saints.”

What does Joy mean? Our term is rather limited on the surface, and the Pope isn’t talking about surface emotions, but an attitude, an underlying orientation of the heart that shows through every waking moment in spite what the surface emotion is.

One of big 2 projects lefts unfinished by Pope Benedict XVI, the other is the Encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) which came out in June 2013.  Pope Benedict had no hand in writing this, but started a process that resulted in this document.

Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation from the Ordinary General Assembly of the 2012 Synod of Bishops: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith (October 2012). Pattern: topic is set 6 months in advance–preliminary outline document (Lineamenta)–feedback from bishops–working document (Instrumentum Laboris)–Assembly considers proposals (propositiones), passes those it approves to the Pope–Post Synodal Exhortation.

It’s tempting to skip introductions, but as I learned in seminary, it’s vital to read them in Church documents. They give us the contours of the document, the key to interpreting it, its objectives and its limitations. Cherry picking quotes out of context from a document such as this is as questionable as it is with the Bible. The introductions to Evangelii Gaudium has a lot of offer us.

There are several documents Pope Francis names as resources, and the main source he lists for this document is Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church) of Vatican II.

Challenge: don’t read too much into Francis, Jesus or God. We’re here to sip wine, swallow it, but not drink the whole bottle.

Tags: Joy, burn out, salvation history, Lent without Easter, generosity

The first section of the introduction calls us to the joy felt with the encounter with God in Christ. It makes a diagnosis of the temptations and ills of today’s culture, felt by believers and unbelievers alike:

-Desolation and anguish born of a complacent and covetous heart

-feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures

-blunted conscience

Christian Joy leads us away from these issues with its depth of encounter with Christ, which opens up new horizons. Goodness is contagious, and leads us to our best selves and our real personal fulfillment.

In Christ, all things become eternally new.

The three settings of Evangelization are: ordinary pastoral ministry (worship and sacraments), the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of baptism (fallen away and marginal Catholics and Christians), and those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have already rejected him. I think the last 2 should be separated: there is a big difference between someone who’s never known Christ and someone who thinks they’ve known and walked away.

A video presentation on the Introduction.


Tags: Role of the Parish, communion and mission, conversion, open hearts

Parishes are meant in a permanent state of mission, looking outward to proclaim the joy of the Gospel. It transforms its customs and practice to serve evangelization rather than self preservation. The aspects of Mission oriented communities are:

-response to Christ

-enables desire to show mercy, having received it

-follows Christ’s commands to wash one another’s feet

-gets involved in people’s daily lives, takes on the ‘smell of sheep’

-patient, not worried about time passing

-concerned with bearing fruit and caring for it

-resists impatience, doesn’t grumble or overreact

-finds a way to let the Word take flesh

-willing to put its life on the line (martyrdom), but tries not to make enemies

-always knows how to rejoice

The role of the parish is:

-an environment for hearing God’s word

-Growth in Christian life

-a place of dialogue and proclamation

-a center of charitable outreach

-a place of worship and celebration

-a training ground for evangelizers

The teaching of the Church is never to be watered down or the Truth compromised, it always starts from the “heart of the Gospel”, but it must be in dialogue and find ways to express the Gospel in a way others will understand. Intellectual dialogue is encouraged, monolithic rigidity is not. The mindset of “We have always done it this way” must be abandoned and customs, even with long histories, that do not conform with the essentials of the faith must be jettisoned. There is a hierarchy of truths and they must be kept in perspective. Christian morality is not:



-merely a practical philosophy

-a catalogue of sins and faults.

Confession is a sacrament of healing. The Church has a place for everyone, and all are called to go forth to everyone, no exceptions.

A video presentation on Chapter 1



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