Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world, Evangelii Gaudium or “The Joy of the Gospel,” has many points that are relevant to the work of Marriage: Unique for a Reason. This series will explore some of these themes and apply Pope Francis’s words to the culture of marriage and family in the United States.
Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers
This one is for all Church workers! Working in and for the Church is a great service, imbued with meaning, and is often attended by joy. At other times, it can be challenging as we witness and experience the human struggle, weaknesses, and sin that mark us all, lay, consecrated, and ordained.
Often, pastoral workers are tempted to stop reaching out to the world and instead get caught up with internal problems of the Church or diocese. We can experience “a sort of inferiority complex” (no. 79) when we are faced with the skepticism and condescension of the media and secular culture. To all who work in or serve the Church, the Holy Father says, “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm!” (no. 80).
The Pope points out that finding people in the Church who are willing to give of their free time is increasingly difficult. He suggests that “people feel an overbearing need to guard their personal freedom, as though the task of evangelization was a dangerous poison rather than a joyful response to God’s love” (no. 81). We are called not only to give to our Church community but also to help others recognize that missionary desire in their own hearts, given to them in Baptism and Confirmation.
Finally, in the section that perhaps is most applicable to the promotion and defense of marriage in America: “The evils of our world—and those of the Church—must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervor” (no. 84). Pope Francis recalls the words of Pope St. John XXIII who said, “We must disagree with those prophets of doom who are always forecasting disaster” (qtd in no. 84). Rather, we who work in the Church, particularly for the authentic truth of marriage in our culture, must be “fully convinced of victory beforehand” (no. 85), even if this victory should not be visible with any immediacy.
People need God. They need Him more than water! If they exclude Him purposefully, as some in our country appear ready and willing to do, they will only bring suffering. By bearing our crosses as we seek to promote marriage today, we can perhaps help alleviate the future suffering of those who will be harmed in the confusion over the family. In the divine economy, we may be “living sources of water from which others can drink” (no. 86).