Monday, December 30, 2013

Evangelii gaudium: 1, Introduction

I have in mind a short series of posts about the Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation; this has been somewhat delayed by domestic matters but it is important enough to wait. In this post I just want to give my overall impressions.

When Pope Francis gave an interview, now more or less repudiated for its inaccuracies, in which he said 'proselytism is solemn nonsense', it was presented as a response to the question 'are you going to try to convert me?' It wasn't clear to many people whether he was contrasting proselytism with evangelisation or witness, or repudiating the entire mission of proclaiming the gospel. (I pointed out that he wouldn't have said 'evangelisation is solemn nonsense'.) Well, we know now. This man is Mr Evangelisation. Bringing the Good News of the Gospel to unbelievers and the lapsed is his number one priority, and he wants it to be the number one priority for every Catholic. He has thought about it very hard over many years, and is concerned above all in this Exhortation with the attitudes of Catholics which are un-evangelical, which are closed in on themselves, which are too comfortable and content with the little group in which they find themselves. I think what he says about this is extremely interesting, and I will set it out in more detail in a later post. He also, very interestingly, condemns activism.

in case there might be any ambiguity about the place of evangelisation in our lives he goes to the trouble of describing in some detail what he has in mind by talking about person-to-person evangelisation (127-130). He also goes into a lot of detail about sermons, and how to prepare them. I wish this chapter had received as much attention as the little snippets about unbridled capitalism; if priests followed the Holy Father's advice on how to prepare to preach homilies would be transformed. Get this, for example (145):

'A preacher who has not prepared is not "spiritual"; he is dishonest and irresponsible with the the gifts he has received.'

He also clarifies has this to say about abortion:

214. 'Precisely because this involves the internal consistency of our message about the value of the human person, the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life.'

In the next post, I will talk about the notion of 'closed', un-evangelical communities.

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