Eighth in a series
In this series highlighting some of the points of Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wish to stress that there is no substitute for reading the entire document.
After some reflections about the prevailing culture, Pope Francis speaks about the temptations faced by pastoral workers. He first expresses gratitude for those who are committed to working in and for the Church. His first challenge goes right to the heart of pastoral ministry. You may find it a bit jarring:
“78. Today we are seeing in many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women, an inordinate concern for their personal freedom and relaxation, which leads them to see their work as a mere appendage to their life, as if it were not part of their very identity. At the same time, the spiritual life comes to be identified with a few religious exercises which can offer a certain comfort but which do not encourage encounter with others, engagement with the world or a passion for evangelization. As a result, one can observe in many agents of evangelization, even though they pray, a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour. These are three evils which fuel one another.”
He continues this challenge that can be a source of examination of conscience on our part: “80. It is striking that even some who clearly have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost, rather than giving their lives to others in mission. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm!”
I love this next line: “85. One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’… While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9).”
We might remember here how Pope Francis began with the note of joy, the joy of the Gospel of Christ and the joy of sharing the Good News of Jesus with others. Here we see how realistic he is. These are challenging reflections and we might avoid the temptation to be offended or feel unappreciated. Pope Francis is essentially a pastor who smelled the sheep and walked among them in Argentina. He is inviting us to honest reflection about the cost of discipleship and being missionaries for Christ. He wants us to remain enthusiastic and positive:
“86… Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!”