It is my hope that these reflections on Evangelii Gaudium would be used for discussion in parishes.  It is also my hope that this will help bring this good document into the hands of priests and parishioners but this comes with a warning.  There is no substitute for reading the entire document.  You can access it at www.vatican.va and then click on Apostolic Exhortations.  I am selecting passages for reflection and that inevitably involves subjective selection.  I do so recognizing my own limitations.  This is not meant to be a complete rendering of Evangelii Gaudium but a catalyst for conversation.

In chapter three Pope Francis turns his attention to the proclamation of the Gospel.  In his vision of a missionary Church, evangelization is the task of the Church and the people are both pilgrims and evangelizers.  He relies upon the primacy of grace for this to be accomplished.  “113… He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals.”  This theme of community and solidarity runs throughout this document.  “Saint Paul tells us in the people of God, in the Church, ‘there is neither Jew or Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28). To those who feel far from God and the Church, to all those who are fearful or indifferent, I would like to say this: the Lord, with great respect and love, is also calling you to be a part of his people!”

He speaks about the various cultures in which the message is proclaimed and the need to evangelize the culture.  “117… We would not do justice to the logic of the incarnation if we thought of Christianity as monocultural and monotonous. While it is true that some cultures have been closely associated with the preaching of the Gospel and the development of Christian thought, the revealed message is not identified with any of them; its content is transcultural. Hence in the evangelization of new cultures, or cultures which have not received the Christian message, it is not essential to impose a specific cultural form, no matter how beautiful or ancient it may be, together with the Gospel. The message that we proclaim always has a certain cultural dress, but we in the Church can sometimes fall into a needless hallowing of our own culture, and thus show more fanaticism than true evangelizing zeal.”

We cannot impose our culture upon other people yet we must be faithful to the truth of the Gospel.  This is not always so easy to do.  “118. The Bishops of Oceania asked that the Church ‘develop an understanding and a presentation of the truth of Christ working from the traditions and cultures of the region’ and invited ‘all missionaries to work in harmony with indigenous Christians so as to ensure that the faith and the life of the Church be expressed in legitimate forms appropriate for each culture.’[94] We cannot demand that peoples of every continent, in expressing their Christian faith, imitate modes of expression which European nations developed at a particular moment of their history, because the faith cannot be constricted to the limits of understanding and expression of any one culture.[95] It is an indisputable fact that no single culture can exhaust the mystery of our redemption in Christ.”  Still, “119. In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization. The people of God is holy thanks to this anointing, which makes it infallible in credendo. This means that it does not err in faith, even though it may not find words to explain that faith. The Spirit guides it in truth and leads it to salvation.”

In summary “120… we are always ‘missionary disciples’. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: ‘We have found the Messiah!’ (Jn 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in him ‘because of the woman’s testimony’ (John 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, ‘immediately proclaimed Jesus’ (Acts 9:20; cf. 22:6-21). So what are we waiting for?”

You can access the document at www.vatican.va and then click on Apostolic Exhortations.

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