. . .Some people continue to defend trickledown 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 naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still wanting.It's brash statements like that one, lefty statements, that prompted his majesty Limbaugh to pronounce the Pope a communist.
. . .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. This culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase.That too. But if you listen to Limbaugh and stay the heck away from the Pontiff, you'll miss one beautific blessing from The Joy of the Gospel, the Pope's own Evangelii Glaudium. It's less than 200 pages long, available on-line, or, from Amazon, just ten bucks. It's an absolute joy to read, saith this Calvinist, and I'm not saying that just because he serves up nothing more than a hefty course of liberal sweetmeats. If you're busy and you can't spare the time some retired old gents have, just read through the first few chapters, where Pope Francis sits back and appraises the state of the world with sharp attention to sociological and theological detail that makes evangelization, he says--the very heart of his joy--difficult. Pope Francis is a very, very wise man, who cometh not out of the east, but out of the west, Brazil.
Honestly, reading through the Pope's ideas about faith and culture in The Joy of the Gospel is like taking a great class full of fresh and insightful analysis. Maybe that sounds too professorial. Joy is not just professorial--it's just plain good.
There are times when the Pope--my ancestors probably called him the Anti-Christ--sounds more like John Calvin than those who live and have their being in his--and my--Calvinist tradition.
Reading the scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need, a kind of "charity a la carte," or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43) [emphasis his, btw] .Or this: "It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven (182)."
Listen to him! He sounds absolutely Kuyperian.
Our mandate is to "go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation (Mk 16:`5), for the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Rom 8:19). Here, "the creation" refers to every aspect of human life.. . .And here's the seedbed for the famous, "Who am I to judge?" response the Pope gave to the reporter who asked him about gay marriage: "neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social realities or the proposal of solutions to contemporary problems" (184).
It's that kind of humility, that kind of grace, that kind of mercy that earmarks the entire study. The entire Christian world would be blessed by reading it.
His ecumenicity doesn't keep him from being Roman Catholic. He rolls out Catholicity 101 on most of the hot-button issues, doesn't back off an inch. He stands with tradition on the role of women with respect to the priesthood (nope) and rejects abortion as soundly and roundly as any of his predecessors.
What's more, a substantial chunk of the late sections of The Joy of the Gospel gives the Virgin Mary her traditional, honored and beatific place:"With Mary we advance confidently toward the fulfillment of this promise, and to her we pray," he says, and much more.
But for those of us who've not listened closely to traditional Roman Catholic doctrine on the Virgin, it's interesting to hear what has been, for centuries, pivotal Catholic dogma: "Contemplating Mary, we realize that she who praised God for 'bringing down the mighty from their thrones': and 'sending the rich away empty' (Lk 1:52-53) is also the one who brings a homely warmth to our pursuit of justice."
He is a big fan of personal piety.
Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy and as a restulf of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out. The Church urgently needs the deep breath of prayer, and to my great joy groups devoted to prayer and intercessio, the prayerful reading of God's word, and the perpectual adoration of the Eucharist are growing at every level of ecclesial life.But then he quotes from John Paul II, concerned that personal piety not morph into something proudly self-centered. "Even so, 'we must reject the temptation to offer a privatized and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity, to say nothing of the implications of the incarnation.'"
My appreciation for The Joy of the Gospel was created in part, I'm sure, by just having finished a tour of the various battlefields of the Reformed Church in America, a fellowship not at all unlike my own, where a fisticuffs have been a way of life and today a host of fiefdoms live comfortably in their own fortresses.
I'll admit it. When I read Pope Francis, I couldn't help but long for a more authoritarian system, something less fractious, even, dare I say it?--less, well, democratic. I couldn't help thinking how great it would be for my fellowship to speak, in a way, like this, with one voice.
I've read too much fiction from Roman Catholic writers to buy some idyllic vision of millions of Roman Catholics simply closing ranks behind this pope or any other. His word is not law. After all, he's the one who famously said, "Who am I to judge?"
On the other hand, The Joy of the Gospel, is the Roman Catholic heart of things right now because he said it. If you want to critique Catholic piety and practice, you start with Evangelii Glaudium, which may not be the Word of Life, but will certainly bring you closer to it than anything else recently penned.
When I finished The Joy of the Gospel, I wished we had a pope. There, I said it. Burn me at the stake, dang it, but I did.
I found it flat-out inspiring.