"From a discussion of economic justice to a call for new decision-making roles for women in the Church, The Joy of the Gospel is thought provoking, wide-ranging, and challenging to every Catholic. Those who carefully read it, study it, and pray with it will be ready to take up, with the whole Church, this "new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitalilty"--and, most especially, joy"--Publisher.
As a non-Catholic I still found much to appreciate in the Pope's exhortation. His emphasis on evangelism and what it requires was overall excellent. His principles for preaching were also quite appropriate. His concerns regarding capitalism and modern day oppression were relevant and appropriately stated. For most of the work, had it not been for the footnotes to all sorts of previous Catholic literature, one could have otherwise not known that it was the Pope who wrote the material.
But there were distinctly Catholic moments. I found the Mariology at the end of the exhortation to be a bit overdone and unnecessary.
Nevertheless, an exhortation worth considering.
I read this book just after celebrating Christmas. When Pope Francis reminds us how consumerism leads to a world with no room for the poor, I’m reminded anew of “no room at the inn.” But this story starts much earlier than the New Testament, and there are ample Old Testament reminders of the joy to come in messianic times.
The book is formatted into chapters with sections and numbered subsections, ending with a well-laid out index covering such topics as social dialogue; the inclusion of the poor; Mary, Mother of Evangelization (since she carried the Word, it seems a logical calling); and the heart of the Gospel. It’s easy to read one piece at once, then ponder. But equally a reader might skim and dive deep, caught by a sudden bright metaphor, singular explanation, or call to action. The Pope deals “extensively” with his topics, “with a detail some may find excessive,” he confesses. But a lay reader, seeking new joy in faith and evangelization, will find in these words a path to “rejoice in the Lord always.” A preacher (whether Catholic or not) will find wise advice on speaking and preparation. A woman will find a generous reminder that the priest’s sacramental power in no way makes him holier than thou. And a pilgrim will find wise advice on ecumenism.
Yes, there are some complicated words, and some ponderous references, but none of it’s onerous. People, politicians, priests, parishes, bishops, and all, will be called to attention here while practical suggestions and measures are offered, from the needs of the poor to the worship of modern-day idols. This isn’t a book of rules and regulations. It doesn’t hammer home Catholic doctrine to the exclusion of human need. And it’s more than just a collection of wise paragraphs. For Catholics, Protestants, Christians, agnostics, priests, lay people, and more; for anyone remotely interested in what the church is meant to be saying, rather than just what they think they’ve heard it say, this book must surely be essential, and truly joyful, reading.
Disclosure: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.
The Holy Father isn’t unaware of the challenges to the New Evangelization. He lays out the obstacles — both external and internal — and then encourages Christians to work beyond them through inspiring kerygmatic preaching, living in solidarity with the poor, and renewing our own walk with Jesus.
Pope Francis has good advice for parish leaders, urging them (in his memorable phrase) to “smell of the sheep.”
In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis offers his “marching orders” to the Church in the 21st century. May it inspire all Catholic leaders to proclaim the Gospel boldly and with joy at all times.