June/July 2014 - Vol. 74

An Invitation to Joyful Witness of the Gospel
by Beth Melchor

During a recent Bible study on the Book of Revelations, a question was posed: “If there’s a letter addressed to your Christian community today, what would the letter say?” I’d imagine it might be Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), because it is what I think many of us need to hear today.

Below are some excerpts from The Joy of the Gospel that will hopefully draw readers to read this wonderful exhortation written by someone whom God has given to the wider church “for such a time as this.” Pope Francis truly speaks from the heart as a pastor who loves his flock.

The exhortation opens with a moving invitation: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’.”

Pope Francis then opens our eyes to the world we live in by aptly describing today’s society and the dangers it poses.

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of His love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.”
He challenges us to live the Gospel at its very core, as if cheering us on at a pep rally with the following chants:
  • No to an economy of exclusion and inequality
  • No to the new idolatry of money
  • No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
  • No to inequality which spawns violence
  • No to selfishness and spiritual sloth
  • No to a sterile pessimism
  • No to spiritual worldliness
  • No to warring among ourselves
  • Yes to the challenge of a missionary spirituality
  • Yes to the new relationships brought by Christ
Ending with the loud cry:“Challenges exist to be overcome!” 

Pope Francis is purposive throughout his exhortation, even in showing how to evangelize “person to person” or how a homily is to be prepared. He acknowledges challenges and limitations to our missionary call. But most of all, he calls all believers to “embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by joy.”

One can go on and on, but rather than tasting tiny morsels, feast on the banquet itself. I pray you have time to read and reflect on the Joy of the Gospel. I close with a final excerpt on joy.

"There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved."

Quotes from The Joy of the Gospel

For quick reading, here are other quotes from the document. These quotes are in no way meant to represent the overall tone, meaning or intent of the Apostolic Exhortation. The full document
is nuanced and full of thought-provoking messages which should be read in full.

God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy.

The Gospel, radiant with the glory of Christ’s cross, constantly invites us to rejoice.

All revealed truths derive from the same Divine Source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gospel. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made
manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.

Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries”, but rather that we are always “missionary disciples”. If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!”

Beth Melchor has been a member of the Joy of the Lord community in the Philippines for the past 39 years. She serves as a senior woman leader in the community and represents the Asia region on the International Women's Coordinating Committee (IWCC). She also serves as the Vice-President of the Bethany Association.

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