We got a present in the post today from our friend Maggy. The note with it said something like ‘I am not given to reading Papal documents as a matter of course, but this one is different’. So different that she sent a copy to us!
This one is the first such document to be written by Pope Francis, and could be seen as his personal agenda, his manifesto, for his papacy. He has called it Evangelii Gaudium, or The Joy of the Gospel. You can read it on-line here, which I had tried to do, but given up. It is much easier to read in paper form so thanks Maggy!
The ‘Gospel’ that Francis talks about ‘Evangelising’ is a very different Gospel that the Evangelicals that I grew up with would recognise. For them the Gospel was simply this- repent, because unless you say the sinners prayer you are going to hell. Francis’ Gospel is about the truth of Christ growing within us, so that as we experience his profound liberation we become ever more sensitive to the needs of others.
Francis is also concerned that the church may be a poor church, for the poor. Here are a couple of quotes which immediately light me up;
“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalised: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
“Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘disposable’ culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’.”
I look forward to reading more of the story that Francis would encourage us to see ourselves part of- the good news Gospel story that our world desperately needs to hear anew.
And I will contrast it with the other stories, like this one.
I will read other stories through the shape given by the Gospel.