On November 24, 2013, with the conclusion of the year of faith, the solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the universe, and the first year of the pontificate of Francis, the apostolic exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM (The joy of the Gospel) was published in Rome, a document that can be considered as the thinking and pathway of what Pope Francis wants his pontificate to be and, therefore, his vision for the mission of the church in this significant historical and social juncture of the human journey.
From the joy that springs from the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ that calls human beings to live as children of God and brothers of all in the certainty of a God revealed by Jesus Christ as a compassionate and merciful Father, Pope Francis calls all the members of the church to become missionaries, (See Chapter One) those who proclaim this good and joyful news. He invites us to go into the world, to break out of our comfort to reach —with the truth of the gospel which is Jesus Christ himself— the places, circumstances and human realities so much in need today of the gospel and the “joy that no one can take away from you” (Jn 16,22). This missionary task of the church in the world must be fulfilled by the church like a mother with an open heart that understands and embraces all human beings in her bosom. A mother with the ability to understand, interpret, love, forgive, become and convert —to the light of the gospel— the realities in which people today live and express themselves.
Among the realities that Pope Francis considers as working to deter the joy of the gospel that people should experience is the economical situation that excludes from its benefits the vast majority of human beings (See Chapter Two), due to the idolatry of money, that oppresses and undermines instead of serving, that tyrannizes and enslaves instead of empowering and making effective the solidarity, liberty, abundant life and fraternity of all people. The idolatry of money that generates inequality and injustice and, as a result, the violence that blocks the experience of the joy of the gospel and which engulfs humans in an individualistic sadness that destroys the sense of vocation of human existence.
The analysis of the great realities experienced by humanity launches —according to Francis— great missionary challenges before the church and every believer today. Challenges that have to do mainly with the enculturation of the faith and, concretely, with the way the gospel should be made known (See Chapter Three).
This evangelistic task, Pope Francis reminds us, has —both intrinsically and essentially— a social dimension (See Chapter Four). Certain community repercussions are verified by what in earlier ecclesiastical discourses were called the preferential option by the poorest of the poor. A preferential option that presupposes the vision and construction of a missionary church that is poor, of the poor and for the poor, if it desires to be and remain totally faithful to its founder: our Lord Jesus Christ.
This social dimension that springs from the Good News as lived and taught by Jesus Christ is manifested and realized especially in the gift of social and religious peace. Social and religious peace that requests a renewed dialogue between faith, reason and science, and an ecumenical dialogue between the various religions.
Finally, Pope Francis reminds us of the great motivation that we have as believers, in the bosom of the Catholic Church, to renew our missionary nature and task (See Chapter Five). In this motivation we find the salvation that God offers us in Jesus Christ, loving us as his children, the activity of the Spirit of the Resurrected One in the midst of his church and the presence of Mary as mother and star of the new evangelization.
If we sought to summarize these thoughts of Francis and of what he desires with his Petrine ministry for every disciple of Christ in the church and for the world today, we would have to say that Pope Francis dreams of:
- A church that is a sign in the world of the joy that springs from the gospel.
- A church that moves outward —as a missionary— toward all the human realities in order to save others with the joy of the gospel.
- A church that lives a continuing experience of renewal, that is, conversion.
- A church that behaves like a mother with an open heart, especially among and with the poorest and those who most need to experience God’s love.
- The love of God that fills with joyful hope that gives life to every person and all of humanity.