These weeks of Lent, I am reflecting on Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"). The largest section of the Holy Father's chapter on proclaiming the Gospel is devoted to the Sunday homily. This is appropriate. The homily is the principal way that the Good News of Jesus Christ is communicated week in and week out.
Lent is an appropriate time for us to reflect on the obstacles that can prevent us from experiencing the fullness of Easter joy. That's why the Church provides us with this penitential season and urges us to devote serious time to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
I could be wrong, but I doubt that the phrase "comfort zone" has ever appeared in a papal document before. In "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), Pope Francis uses this term quite deliberately. He tells us in no uncertain terms that Christian life is not meant to be comfortable. On the contrary, we are each asked "to obey His call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the 'peripheries' in need in light of the Gospel."
Joy is not a Lenten theme -- or is it? The purpose of the penitential season of Lent, which involves six weeks of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, is to prepare us for the joy of Easter. What better way to prepare for joy than to meditate on its meaning and its source? What more practical guide to finding, and living, joy than the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- the good news that is our inspiration and hope in the search for true happiness?
VATICAN CITY -- In his first extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis lays out a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelization in a positive key, with a focus on society's poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.
"Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), released by the Vatican Nov. 26, is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document. (Pope Francis' first encyclical, "Lumen Fidei," published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.)
VATICAN CITY -- Here are a few of the main features of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), which was released Nov. 26 at the Vatican:
-- With a mix of conversational style and formal papal magisterial language, Pope Francis sets forth a vision for giving the entire church, at every level, a missionary thrust; he anticipates some objections and confusion, but asks everyone to give it a try.