Well, I'm moving slowly through the papal exhortation arriving at chapter two titled Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment. The title itself is interesting and perhaps somewhat ironic. After all isn't "communal commitment" a good thing vs a "crisis?" Or is the pope pointing rather to the lack of communal commitment?
He calls on the evangelist to have the spirit of a missionary beginning by recognizing the signs of the time. After describing advances in society, he points out the reality that many, even most, are excluded:
Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.He writes about a "globalization of indifference." And just today I saw an interview with a Canadian businessman who called it "fantastic" that 85 of the richest people in the world control as much wealth as 3.5 BILLION of the poorest. Apparently he never heard that greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Talk about indifference! See it at work here:
The pope calls for an ethic that respects the poor:
Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.An echo of Pope Benedict's condemnation of relativism resonates in Pope Francis' statement that:
In many places, the problem is more that of widespread indifference and relativism, linked to disillusionment and the crisis of ideologies..... This not only harms the Church but the fabric of society as a whole. We should recognize how in a culture where each person wants to be bearer of his or her own subjective truth, it becomes difficult for citizens to devise a common plan which transcends individual gain and personal ambitions.This criticism is particularly relevant in the U.S. where so many immoral choices are tied to the concepts of "freedom" and "civil rights" where the individual is his own god determining what is right or wrong "for him." The pope points out that the damage is especially apparent in the weakening of the family which he calls a "profound cultural crisis."
He moves from there to observing deficiencies in the evangelizers who are infected by many of the same vices rampant in the culture: love of money and comfort, moral relativism, lack of confidence, pessimism, and diminishing zeal. Another problem? Too much reliance on the world. The disasters in local and global Catholic charities spring to mind as apt examples.
Pope Francis stresses that the evangelist must always be fully conscious of the joy of the Gospel, but also remain confident of victory:
Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centred lack of trust.Chapter II ends by stressing that evangelization is the duty of all, not just those in ministerial priesthood. The pope discusses the responsibility of the laity describing the specific gifts of women and young people and the need to listen to the wisdom of the elderly. He sums up with, "Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!" The call to evangelization is clearly the mission of all.