Sunday, June 29, 2014

Evangelii Gaudium, Part Eight

164. In catechesis too, we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the centre of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal. 

We “rediscovered” it? Was it lost? If so, how and why and by whom?

165. We must not think that in catechesis the kerygma gives way to a supposedly more “solid” formation. Nothing is more solid, profound, secure, meaningful and wisdom-filled than that initial proclamation. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart. The centrality of the kerygma calls for stressing those elements which are most needed today: it has to express God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance which will not reduce preaching to a few doctrines which are at times more philosophical than evangelical. All this demands on the part of the evangelizer certain attitudes which foster openness to the message: approachability, readiness for dialogue, patience, a warmth and welcome which is non-judgmental.

These paragraphs seem to have, at their core, a concern that those currently charged with teaching the Faith are overly focused to doctrinal minutiae and theological nitpickery. Where is this a problem? Does this actually happen? 

Catechesis is a proclamation of the word and is always centred on that word, yet it also demands a suitable environment and an attractive presentation, the use of eloquent symbols, insertion into a broader growth process and the integration of every dimension of the person within a communal journey of hearing and response.

This will be the new excuse for disco liturgy. 

167. Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the “way of beauty” (via pulchritudinis).[129] Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendour and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. This has nothing to do with fostering an aesthetic relativism [130] which would downplay the inseparable bond between truth, goodness and beauty, but rather a renewed esteem for beauty as a means of touching the human heart and enabling the truth and goodness of the Risen Christ to radiate within it. If, as Saint Augustine says, we love only that which is beautiful,[131] the incarnate Son, as the revelation of infinite beauty, is supremely lovable and draws us to himself with bonds of love. So a formation in the via pulchritudinis ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith. Each particular Church should encourage the use of the arts in evangelization, building on the treasures of the past but also drawing upon the wide variety of contemporary expressions so as to transmit the faith in a new “language of parables”.[132]

Now this part, I definitely get, and anyone who has been in a wreckovated parish or seen some of the monstrous structures that pass for churches these days knows what His Holiness is talking about. If you somehow don’t know, read Michael Rose’s book Ugly As Sin for a few concrete (literally) examples.

We must be bold enough to discover new signs and new symbols, new flesh to embody and communicate the word, and different forms of beauty which are valued in different cultural settings, including those unconventional modes of beauty which may mean little to the evangelizers, yet prove particularly attractive for others.

Unfortunately, these lines will be used to justify the destruction of beautiful churches in order to sate the banal cultural whims of the masses. After all, if a stripped down, minimalist barren building "speaks to" a group, shouldn't we accommodate that? Or a goth parish, where everything is draped in black. It's unconventional, but maybe it will attract goth parishioners. 

170. Although it sounds obvious, spiritual accompaniment must lead others ever closer to God, in whom we attain true freedom. Some people think they are free if they can avoid God; they fail to see that they remain existentially orphaned, helpless, homeless. They cease being pilgrims and become drifters, flitting around themselves and never getting anywhere. To accompany them would be counterproductive if it became a sort of therapy supporting their self-absorption and ceased to be a pilgrimage with Christ to the Father.

I immediately thought of Walker Percy in reading this section. This is something like what the riposte to Lancelot must have sounded like.

172. One who accompanies others has to realize that each person’s situation before God and their life in grace are mysteries which no one can fully know from without. The Gospel tells us to correct others and to help them to grow on the basis of a recognition of the objective evil of their actions (cf. Mt 18:15), but without making judgments about their responsibility and culpability (cf. Mt 7:1; Lk 6:37). 

This is excellent for rebutting some of the “Who am I to judge?” and “The Pope has abolished sin” insanity that has swept over so many. Being able to point out a person’s evil actions naturally means being able to categorize such actions as evil. This doesn’t mean offering an opinion on the person’s final destination. 

At this point, the Pope begins a new chapter meant to focus on his “concerns about the social dimension of evangelization.”

To believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone means realizing that he seeks to penetrate every human situation and all social bonds: “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable”.[143] 

The Holy Spirit is at work in everyone? Is this true? I get it in the context of, say, Divine Providence. That doesn’t sound like what the Holy Father is talking about though.

Evangelization is meant to cooperate with this liberating work of the Spirit. The very mystery of the Trinity reminds us that we have been created in the image of that divine communion, and so we cannot achieve fulfilment or salvation purely by our own efforts. 

Heh. The Pope makes this observation a lot. We can’t save ourselves. Which makes me wonder how people would answer the question “How am I to be saved?” Being nice? God just does it for me? But again, the critical question is still hanging out there. Salvation from what? Saved from what?

180. Reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. 

What? You mean it’s not just “Jesus and me”?

Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need, a kind of “charity à la carte”, or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. 

Which people will not recognize without doctrinal formation.

181. The kingdom, already present and growing in our midst, engages us at every level of our being and reminds us of the principle of discernment which Pope Paul VI applied to true development: it must be directed to “all men and the whole man”.[145] We know that “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social”.[146] This is the principle of universality intrinsic to the Gospel, for the Father desires the salvation of every man and woman, and his saving plan consists in “gathering up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). Our mandate is to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15), for “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). Here, “the creation” refers to every aspect of human life; consequently, “the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it”.[147] True Christian hope, which seeks the eschatological kingdom, always generates history.

I’m not sure at all what this section means. It seems to be all over the place.

It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven.

This is an admirable statement, which cannot be repeated enough. Although, I’m not sure if anyone is saying that the Church only exists to prepare souls for heaven. Is someone making that claim?

We know that God wants his children to be happy in this world too, even though they are called to fulfilment in eternity, for he has created all things “for our enjoyment” (1 Tim 6:17), the enjoyment of everyone. It follows that Christian conversion demands reviewing especially those areas and aspects of life “related to the social order and the pursuit of the common good”.[149]

This is unfortunately ambiguous, and you can bet will be used as fodder by prosperity gospel types. 

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