A view of Pope Francis’ Gospel of Joy from South America… The Poor and Poverty in Evangelii Gaudium by Víctor Codina, SJ. The thought provoking article covers 10 points.
1. Symbolic gestures
The new Pope Francis, before giving many speeches and writing encyclicals, made a series of symbolic gestures charged with great significance that have been easily understood by everyone and widely aired by the social media.
Those gestures have changed the church environment that predominated up to now: kissing a disabled boy and embracing a man with a completely deformed face, washing the feet of a young Muslim woman, eating with children with Down syndrome in Assisi, going to the island of Lampedusa on his first trip outside of Rome and tossing out a wreath of yellow and white flowers to commemorate the deceased immigrants, convening a world day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria because the faces of the children dead because of chemical weapons strongly challenged him, using his old shoes rather than the red shoes of his predecessor, not living in the Vatican apostolic palace but in the Saint Martha residence, traveling around Rome in a simple small utilitarian car so as not to scandalize the people in the peripheral working class neighborhoods, answering the questions of a non-believing journalist, inviting rabbis from Argentina to Saint Martha’s, giving little shoes to Cristina Fernández de Kirschner’s grandchild, receiving Gustavo Gutierrez, the father of liberation theology, bringing a bouquet of flowers to the grave of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, inviting four beggars for his birthday,…These “little flowers of Pope Francis”, like the “little flowers of John XXIII”, have been easily understood by the people.
But gradually he has been sending out great pastoral messages and his apostolic exhortation,Evangelii Gaudium, on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, presents the whole program of his pontificate, his pastoral roadmap. From this exhortation, we will point out what Francis says about the poor and poverty.
2. Realities are more important than ideas (231-233)
This statement, surprising in the writings of the Magisterium which often seems to put ideas ahead of reality, affirms the priority of reality over the elaboration of ideas. Otherwise, reality is hidden by angelism, totalitarianism of the relative, nominalism, projects that are more form than real, ahistorical fundamentalism, ethicism without mercy, intellectualism without wisdom. Ideas must be connected with reality. The incarnation of the Word is the criterion that leads us to treasure the history of the Church as the history of salvation, to remember our saints who inculturated the gospel in the lives of our peoples, not pretend to develop thoughts disconnected from reality. On the other hand, prioritizing reality leads us to bring the Word into practice, to not build on sand.
Aren’t we looking at the Latin American method of starting from reality, joining seeing with judging and acting? This used and supported methodology will positively determine the whole subject of poverty and the poor.
The article continues with the following sections…
3. Prophetic denunciation of an unjust system (53-59)
4. The new faces of the poor (210-216)
5. The social dimension of faith (175-186)
6. Hearing the cry of the poor (186-191)
7. A poor Church and for the poor (192-209)
8. Popular piety as a theological locus
9. Poverty can’t wait (202-208)
It concludes with
10. Under the action of the Risen One and his Spirit (275-280)
Lack of deep spirituality produces pessimism, mistrust and fatalism in many. Many believe that nothing can change, that it is useless to make an effort. But if we think that things won’t change, remember that Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death. Jesus Christ lives and has power. Christ, resurrected and glorious, is the deep source of our hope. His help will not fail us.
His resurrection carries a force that has permeated the world. There are outbreaks of resurrection where everything seemed dead; there are dark things, but good and values tend to come back to spring forth and spread. Each day, beauty is reborn in the world, which rises transformed through the storms of history.
Certainly, there are difficulties and experiences of failure. Everything doesn’t happen as we might wish in evangelization, but we don’t have to throw in the towel, dominated by chronic distrust and spiritual acedia. We are not to seek our own success or careerism since the gospel, which is the most beautiful thing the world has, will be buried under many excuses then.
By faith we are to believe that He marches victoriously through history in union with His own, that the Kingdom is present in history as a small seed, as yeast, as wheat that grows amid the chaff, and that it can always pleasantly surprise us. And all this because the Lord has already penetrated the hidden plot of the story and Jesus didn’t rise in vain.
No effort is wasted, no act of love towards God is lost. Our mission isn’t a business deal or project, or a humanitarian organization, or a successful show, fruit of our publicity. The Spirit works when, where, and as it likes. We must trust in the Spirit that comes to our aid. We must invoke it. It can heal all that weakens us. It plunges us into a sea where we sometimes even feel dizzy because we don’t know what we’ll find. But we must allow ourselves to be led by it, stop calculating and wanting to control everything, allow it to illuminate us, guide us, direct us, push us wherever it wants. It knows what is needed in every epoch and moment. That is being mysteriously fruitful.
In sum, the denunciation of unjust poverty as well as the option for the poor and for a poor Church and for the poor, spring necessarily from our cheerful faith in Christ and in his Spirit that fills the universe and renews the face of the Earth.