Yes! A Thousand Times Yes!

Fr. Barron totally gets it:

What has been almost totally overlooked in all the attempts to dismiss, minimize, and explain away the pope’s emphasis on “he has sent me to proclaim good news to the poor” is the far greater fact that “he has sent me to proclaim good news to the poor”.

The title of the exhortation is, after all, “The Joy of the Good News”, not the Joy of Social Teaching” or “The Joy of Opposition to Abortion”. Francis, right in line with what he’s been saying all along is that the *core* of the Faith is the encounter with the person of the Risen Christ. Morals and ethics, important as they are, are not the heart of the faith and when we try to make them that we replace the Risen Christ with (another favorite theme of his) idols. The central mistake of Catholics here in America (and I’m as guilty as anybody) is that we keep straying from the good news of “Christ Jesus has been crucified and risen and as a result everything has changed” and keep buying into culture war narratives, economic theories, and political tribalisms as the Main Thing the gospel is about. Francis really gets that Jesus is the center of the good news: a “positive emergency” (love that!). So does Fr. Barron. Very refreshing to hear.

  • Simon Francis Hambrook

    a “positive emergency” expresses it well! The joy and the beauty and the centre of all that is. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1855475746/francesco-a-life-of-stfrancis-and-stclare

  • John Barnes

    Also refreshing that, given his position, Fr. Barron has a hand in forming future priests.
    Reading through Pope Francis’ encyclical, I couldn’t help but think of a line from R.A. Lafferty’s great book “The Fall of Rome.” Paraphrasing: Christ promised that the Church, but not necessarily its furnirture, would stand until the end of time.
    Many of our brethren are way too preoccupied (nay, obsessed) with the furniture.

    • Andy

      I like greatly the furniture analogy.

  • Elmwood

    Fr. Barron is great–makes a lot more sense to focus on bringing Christ into the world rather than focusing on the splinter in our neighbor’s eye and ignoring our plank.

    But seriously, it’s much more fun to focus on the negatives.

  • Irksome1

    Without the proper morals and ethics, any encounter with the Risen Christ will be a torment, not a joy. If not careful, that torment will be eternal and near infinite. It therefore seems that morals and ethics necessarily precede Christ in importance since it is they that will govern what type of experience any encounter with Christ will be.

    • Heather

      Yeah, because Saul had it all together morally/ethically when he encountered Christ, right?

      Seriously, no. When you have a conversion experience, you repent because you have encountered the Good News. You don’t receive the Good News because you’re already repented.

      • Irksome1

        If I recall, Saul was knocked to the ground and blinded for several days by his encounter with Christ. Not my idea of a fun time. That’s not your best example, is it?

        • Heather

          Who said encountering Christ was supposed to be fun?
          Grace is what allows repentance to happen in the first place, not the other way around. Saying we have to get our moral house in order to be able to encounter Christ is pretty much saying that it is our own efforts that allow us to be saved. And I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. I think that’s called Pelagianism.

          Christ is the one inviting. Standing at the door and knocking. Sometimes He has to do it with a smack upside the head, as in the case of St. Paul and memorable others. We are the ones who respond with either repentance or rejection. And the invitation is repeated until we either accept it or go to our deaths preferring damnation to joy.

          I changed my mind about the Church’s moral teachings because my encounter with Grace opened my mind. And no, it wasn’t “fun.” It turned my life a little bit upside down. But I didn’t mind because it was worth it. I had encountered something much more important and precious than fun, security, stability, and life itself.

          You can’t be convinced to give up “fun” if you haven’t discovered that there is something better than “fun.”

          • Irksome1

            Well, if the “joy” of encountering Christ can be void of any enjoyment, and this without reference to morals or ethics, why should it be desirable at all?

            • Heather

              Martyrdom doesn’t have much “enjoyment” involved either, and yet even catechumens have endured it willingly, and in some stories even joyfully.

              Once you have truly encountered the Source of all joy, temporary inconveniences like short term blindness or loss of prestige or rethinking one’s moral grounding or having to break up with one’s live-in boyfriend or laying down your life for Him or whatever all seem like not so big a deal.

              It’s not called the Good News of Moral/Philosophical Ideology.
              You encounter Jesus and fall in love with Him and are therefore disposed to make sacrifices for the sake of that love.

            • Roki

              I remember my first encounters with bleu cheese. It stank. The little bit I got to my tongue was overwhelming with flavors, few of them pleasant. I pretty well decided that I didn’t like bleu cheese, till some friends explained the experience, and taught me to pair it up a bit, and I discovered the deep pleasures of the strong stuff.

              Lots of good things are difficult, uncomfortable, or even painful on first encounter. This is because we are finite beings, and we have to stretch ourselves to experience the good things that are out there in the world. The world is good enough that it is worth working through the strain of growth to be able to enjoy it.

              God, of course, is infinite: the source of our existence. It would be surprising indeed if an encounter with him were not at least as overwhelming as an encounter with bleu cheese. But the joy is likewise infinite, not just fulfilling the taste buds, but fulfilling the entire mind and body and being of who we are.

              • Irksome1

                I think your analogy would be better suited to support my view of things than yours. Your subjective experience of blue cheese (not gonna do the silly French spelling, except to point out you got it wrong as well; the correct spelling for a French blue cheese is “Roquefort”) is premised on your own preparations and efforts. In this, the cheese is secondary and, in fact, easily replaceable with any number of other things. Similarly, the Risen Christ is also secondary to how we prepare ourselves for the encounter.

                • Roki

                  Re: spelling – happy to be corrected.

                  I don’t think I understand your priority of preparation over experience. Sure, preparation and learning and prior experience will shape how I experience something new; but it will not change whether the new thing is good or bad. It will not change whether it is desirable in itself, or whether I can discover the joy within it. Ultimately, I will judge the preparation by the experience, not vice versa.

                  And that’s just with cheese, which is a very small good.

                  The Risen Christ is God, Incarnate and Glorified. He is infinite. How can anything I do in my finite life “prepare” me for an encounter with the infinite? How can my actions overwhelm the manner in which God chooses to reveal himself?

    • Roki

      No, I think history and experience show the opposite. Certainly every conversion in scripture begins with the encounter with Christ. “Go and sin no more” follows the encounter.

      The reason is simple: why should I change my sinful life, which from my point of view works as well as anything else? The only reason is if something wakes me up, shows me a new perspective, gives me something new to believe, or to hope for, or to love. In other words, I need a reality check.

      An encounter with the Living God is exactly that reality check: here is Reality Himself, and knowing him and his love and his call is what challenges us to re-examine our morals and change our behavior in the light of Reality, in the light of Christ.

      As a side-note, it is only with the grace of Christ that we are capable of living out our morality. Even if our moral theory is good, our behavior likely falls far short, and will continue to do so until we enter relationship with Christ and receive his Holy Spirit.


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