Evangelli Gaudium - “The Joy of the Gospel”
My first reaction when the Pope's Apostolic Exhortation was recommended for Lenten study was one of surprise. Initially that he had written such a thing in the first six months of his Papacy, and then, that as Anglicans, we were being encouraged to pay attention to it.
My second reaction on starting to study it and the associated Biblical passages was also surprise.
It is indeed a true exhortation – inspiring, uplifting and challenging as well as being literary and intellectually coherent. Obviously you don't get to be Pope for nothing!
The opening paragraph sets out the reasoning and the vision:
" The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come."
The subsequent 287 paragraphs elaborate on this in a multitude of contexts. Naturally there are parts that relate solely to Catholicism – the celibate priesthood, the veneration of Mary etc., but there are also overtures to ecumenism and interfaith dialogue.
It needs to be approached in small sections as there is much to digest, but as exhortation goes, you don't get much better than this:
7.........I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.
8. Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?"