Lessons from Evangelii Gaudium #13
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.
Inclusion of the Poor (nos. 186-192)
Sacred Scripture reveals the Christian has a mission to hear and respond to the cry of the poor, as our heavenly Father has responded to us. “I have observed the misery of my people…I have heard their cry…Indeed I know their sufferings and I have come down to deliver them (Exodus 3:7-8)” (no. 187). Because we ourselves have first received grace from God, as a Church we must work for justice for all through solidarity.
Solidarity is not merely expressed by a few random acts of kindness or surface-level changes in society’s structures, but rather requires a full transformation of our mindset and habits regarding goods and community. We must train ourselves to “recognize that the social function of property and the universal destination of goods are realities which come before private property” (no. 189). The more fortunate we are, the more we are called to serve others.
One of the ways to be transformed is to expand our understanding of “human rights.” So often we understand rights in a negative sense as protection against others, rather than in light of the Gospel, which emphasizes the right for responding to God. As members of the Church it is our responsibility to recognize the rights of others—even those beyond our region or country—to achieve fulfillment. Not only should we be concerned with the physical needs of the poor, but also with the things that bring a fuller prosperity to human life—education, healthcare, and employment.
The role of the family as a domestic church “certainly cannot stop short at procreation and education,” but must expand “to manifold social service activities, especially in favor of the poor (Familiaris Consortio 44). Families are called to transform their understanding of their own possessions and to be ever aware of the priority of the community. Further, this must be passed on to children, who “must be enriched not only with a sense of true justice, which alone leads to respect for the personal dignity of each individual, but also and more powerfully by a sense of true love, understood as sincere solicitude and disinterested service with regard to others, especially the poorest and those in most need” (Familiaris Consortio, 37). It is up to parents to ensure that children first receive this compassionate love in the context of the family, and that they are called to pass on that same love to all others.