The Joy of the Gospel, Chapter 4

The Social Dimension of Evangelization

Part I: Communal and Societal Repercussions of Kerygma (Chapters 176-258)

“To evangelize is to make the Kingdom of God present in the world.” (176) This chapter is Pope Francis’ blueprint for how the Church lives in human society, and by extension, the Church’s vision for society itself. He says: “The kerygma (First Proclamation, from the previous chapter) has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others.”

Much of this is drawn from the implications in previous chapters. The love of the Father gives every human person an infinite dignity which must be respected. Love for one another comes from that, and our response is important: “For the measure you give will be the measure you get back (Lk 6:38) The Gospel isn’t just about our personal relationship with God, and our response to God isn’t just a “charity à la carte.” (180)

The kingdom of God is already in our midst, engages us totally and is directed, as Pope Paul VI said, to: “all men and the whole man.” Pope Francis quotes the Apericida document as he elaborates: “the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it” Christian conversion demands all of us to look at all areas and aspects of life “related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good.” (182)

Happiness in this world is important to God as well as our ultimate destination. “An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it.” (184)
The existing source, the Social Compendium of the Church is a recommended resource.

The two issues he sees as fundamental at this time in history are: 1.) inclusion of the poor in society, and 2.) peace and social dialogue.

In the first issue, “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” Solidarity with the poor is a concept that needs to be unpacked, which paragraphs 188-9 do in detail. He says it’s vital to change attitudes as well as structures, for changing structures alone will result in their corruption and decay.

He sees welfare and aid programs as temporary solutions at best. The Pope goes farther than immediate needs: “. . .our dream soars higher. We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a “dignified sustenance” for all people, but also their “general temporal welfare and prosperity”.159 This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive labour that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives. A just wage enables them to have adequate access to all the other goods which are destined for our common use.”

We’re reminded that almsgiving is a means of atonement introduced in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New. The message of preferential option for the poor is so clear, that he says the problem isn’t doctrinal error, but fidelity to a clear message. (193-4) The problem can be our hardness of heart, provided by the distraction of self-centered lifestyles. The option for the poor is a theological category, not a cultural, political of philosophical category. It’s more than assistance programs, but an appreciation of the goodness of the poor. He singles out spiritual care as the greatest need, and says we are all responsible for the care of the poor, implying there is no delegation of this obligation.

As implied earlier in this document, Pope Francis rejects the absolute autonomy of markets, and says: “The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.”(203) He says that economy is the art of fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole. He warns that a community that “thinks it can comfortably go its own way without creative concern and effective cooperation in helping the poor to live with dignity and reaching out to everyone, will also risk breaking down, however much it may talk about social issues or criticize governments. It will easily drift into a spiritual worldliness camouflaged by religious practices, unproductive meetings and empty talk.” (207)

Part 2: The Common Good and Peace and Society

Peace isn’t pacification, the mere absence of violence, a precarious balance of power. “People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be.” (220) The 4 principles of building a people in peace:

1.) Time is greater than space
2.) Unity prevails over conflict
3.) Realities are more important than ideas
4.) The whole is greater than the part

Unpacking: in 1.) we’re reminded to have the patience to work slowly and diligently, always looking at the big picture (223); 2.) Conflict must be faced, and we’re always called to be seekers of the Third Way, that resolves conflict and makes it a link in the chain of a new process; 3.) there is a continuous dialogue between realities and ideas: “What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason.” (232) and 4.) there is always a tension between the localization and the globalization, however: “the whole is greater than the part, and it is also greater than the sum of its parts.” (235) We’re called to always broaden our horizons. He doesn’t like the sphere, where every point is equidistant from the center and no differences are between them, but the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness. (236)

The new evangelization calls all the baptized to be peacemakers and a credible witness of reconciled life. “It is the responsibility of the State to safeguard and promote the common good of society. Based on the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, and fully committed to political dialogue and consensus building, it plays a fundamental role, one which cannot be delegated, in working for the integral development of all.” (240)

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