Sixth in a series
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.
With that said, in chapter two Pope Francis launches into a scrutiny of the signs of the times relative to the missionary aspect of the Church: “51…. In this Exhortation I claim only to consider briefly, and from a pastoral perspective, certain factors which can restrain or weaken the impulse of missionary renewal in the Church, either because they threaten the life and dignity of God’s people or because they affect those who are directly involved in the Church’s institutions and in her work of evangelization.”
After describing the dire straits of many people today, Pope Francis turns first to the economy. Here he stirs the pot for some people. Please remember he is writing as a pastor concerned for those who are excluded by economic systems. He is not condemning wealthy people nor disparaging their generosity.
“53. 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 marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape…”
“54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
How do you see this being played out in your life and in economic systems?