So let’s try this again. How many of us who have commented on “The Gospel of Joy” have read it all the way through, never mind let it settle in for reflection?
The first nine months of the pontificate of Pope Francis have often resembled a gigantic Rorschach test in which various commentators inside and outside the Catholic Church have “seen” their dreams and fears realized. Alas, what has been “seen” has often had little to do with the record of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as priest and bishop or with his most consequential decisions as pope.
Those projections reached fever pitch with the publication on Tuesday of Francis’ first apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), which was celebrated, or lamented, as if it were an Occupy Whatever position paper for a G-8 summit. Instead, the papal document should be read and appreciated for what it manifestly is: a clarion call for a decisive shift in the Catholic Church’s self-understanding, in full continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
I note that it was published in the “Black Friday” edition of the Wall Street Journal because it so happens that Weigel’s book, Evangelical Catholicism is a great primer for understanding where the Church is and needs to be going.
(My early, initial interview with George about it here.)
Speaking of Rorschach tests, you can watch them explode when certain names are mentioned, as assumptions are made … or things are taken out of context and conclusions are drawn. We could use a little more mercy and gratitude. We’ve all got talents, roles, vocations. Let’s let God illuminate the truth of his love and justice in our lives, encouraging the good where we see it, even as we necessarily debate politics and policy with a discerning prudence.
Given it is Thanksgiving weekend, it’s worth noting that so much of what Pope Francis points to it gratitude. Gratitude for the Gospel. Gratitude for God’s mercy. Gratitude for our salvation! Will we live like we have this Good News and believe it, already? Thanks be to God when we do — he says this, too, by the way, acknowledging that there are laborers in the vineyard living lives of sacrifice and joy, even as so many of us professed Christians fall into lukewarmness, a practical atheism.
His exhortation is encouraging because there is hope.
George Weigel concludes:
Pope Francis is a revolutionary. The revolution he proposes, however, is not a matter of economic or political prescription, but a revolution in the self-understanding of the Catholic Church: a re-energizing return to the pentecostal fervor and evangelical passion from which the church was born two millennia ago, and a summons to mission that accelerates the great historical transition from institutional-maintenance Catholicism to the Church of the New Evangelization.
The revolution starts in our hearts, made for radical conversion to His Sacred Heart!
Here’s my thanksgiving for “The Gospel of Joy.”