In this season of advent it is fitting to reflect on the words of Evangelii Gaudium (English: The Joy of the Gospel), the apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis on the church’s primary mission of evangelization in the modern world. Presented in a combination of conversational and magisterial tone, Pope Francis sets forth a vision for giving the entire Church, at every level, a missionary thrust; while he anticipates some objections and confusion, he nonetheless encourages everyone to give it a try. The Pope recognizes the difficult challenges that the Christian faces in the contemporary reality. Consumerism, idolatry of money and secularism are but some of the assaults that Christians have to contend with every day which undermine faith in Jesus Christ. This epochal change is clearly expressed by Pope Francis when he said that despite so many advances in so many fields, majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. 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? For Pope Francis, this is a case of exclusion.
Yet the Gospel offers us the joy of living. Pope Francis sees the Christian life as being based on knowing and experiencing God’s love, mercy and salvation offered to all through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to Pope Francis, the proclamation of the Gospel will be a basis for restoring the dignity of human life in these contexts, for Jesus desires to pour out an abundance of life upon our cities. The unified and complete sense of human life that the Gospel proposes is the best remedy for the ills of our cities, even though we have to realize that a uniform and rigid program of evangelization is not suited to this complex reality. But to live our human life to the fullest and to meet every challenge as a leaven of Gospel witness in every culture and in every city will make us better Christians and bear fruit in our cities.
It is in the context of the Gospel that we must see and approach this season of advent. Sadly, over the years, Christmas time has descended into a culture of materialism. Pope Francis warns us against the idolatry of money. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption. For behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision.
It is time to inculturate our faith in all human endeavors, not the least of which in celebrating Christmas. For it is only in finding and experiencing the true meaning of the Gospel that we can truly say that Christmas is a season of joy. To experience real joy is not by worshipping the ancient golden calf but by following the will of God. And we have to share this love of God to others. Pope Francis says that the heart of the Christian moral message is love for one another, which must motivate Christians to share the Gospel, help the poor and work for social justice. Everyone is exhorted to share God’s love through evangelization, especially to the poor and the outcast. Pope Francis asks that each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.
To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world. In this day and age of severe assaults to the Christian faith this exhortation is daunting. But if we, as followers of Christ, truly desire to find happiness in our lives, not only in this season of Advent, we should take the risk and heed the challenge of Pope Francis in sharing the Gospel of Christ. For ultimately, what counts the most is our salvation, the cornerstone of our very existence.
Facebook Page: Dean Tony La Viña Twitter: tonylavs