Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #16
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.
The Common Good and Peace in Society, Part II (nos. 231-237)
The next two principles Pope Francis writes about in this section on the common good are:
- Realities are more important than ideas
- The whole is greater than the part
Pope Francis reminds us in the first part that ideas and reality must be in constant dialogue with one another. “It is dangerous to dwell in the realm of words alone, of images and rhetoric,” he writes (no. 231). One calls to mind the image of an abstract philosopher, musing to himself on the joys and trials of married life while his wife, with frizzled hair and angry expression, changes a diaper on the floor of the kitchen while a meal she prepared is cooking on the stove and someone has come to the door. This is a caricature, of course, but this seems to be what the pope is talking about: when the words do not become flesh.
“What calls us to action are realities illumined by reason” (no. 232). When we are engaged in seeing reality with all the benefits of contemplating truth, we strive to live differently. The picture changes, for example, into one of a father embracing his wife on his way to change the diaper. It is the Incarnation that shows us that words alone are not enough: the Word was made flesh!
The second principle, Pope Francis writes, means that we must pay attention to both of the worlds we live in: the global context and our local communities. He uses the analogy of a polyhedron, which is both distinct and unified. There is “a place for everyone” and each person maintains his or her individuality while becoming part of a larger whole.
In marriage, while the two become “one flesh,” they also maintain their own identities. In fact, the love of the other should help each to become more fully him- or herself. Likewise, each child that is given to a family is a unique human person. They should be encouraged in their interests, even if no one in the family shares them, and be educated to see their differences as strengths. When the family is united in difference, they reveal the truth that “the whole is greater than the parts.”