Evangelii Gaudium I: A Joy Ever New, A Joy which is Shared
"[W]henever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms....Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love." 3What an appropriate time it is for this exhortation as we stand on the threshold of the season of hope and joy that begins with the first Sunday of Advent and reaches its crescendo at Christmas. The pope reminds us of the joy of Messianic times quoting the great readings from Isaiah and the other prophets. "Sing for joy, O heavens, and rejoice, O Earth....Rejoice greatly O daughter Zion....The Lord your God is in your midst." 4 And then He remind us of Mary. What Christian, fully aware of Mary's faithful love, can fail to leap with joy at the thought of her response to the angel. And how quickly words become acts as she goes in haste to assist her cousin Elizabeth. Aren't we all invited to respond like little John the Baptist dancing for joy in his mother's womb?
But we don't always, the pope reminds us:
"There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.... Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met...." 7 What liberates us from this self-absorption? An encounter or renewed encounter "with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship.... 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?" 8E.G. II: The Delightful and Comforting Joy of Evangelizing
The pope's words speak for themselves here:
"Goodness always tends to spread. 9 ...When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment. For 'here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others.'" 10Like the song say, "Love isn't love til you give it away." But there's a big caveat here:
"...an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!...[The world needs to be evangelized by] 'ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ.'" 10The Lord loves a cheerful giver, so our sharing of the faith must be joyful. We also need to remember that it's not fundamentally our work, but the Lord's aimed at several categories of persons:
- a pastoral ministry aimed at those who already practice the faith
- a second area aimed at those "who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith." 14
- Lastly, the pope addresses the right to evangelization of "those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of these are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face....Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”. 14
The pope closes the introduction to the pastoral with a section describing its scope saying he is providing guidelines while leaving the specifics of evangelization to local bishops:
All of [the guidelines] help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake. In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). 17I can sum up the introduction of the exhortation as, "Evangelize! And do it with joy."