Pascha VI: The Joy of the Gospel
2015 – Cycle B
This is the fourth in a series of reflections on the Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) of Pope Francis of Rome. Chapter 4. Bracketed [ ] numbers refer to paragraph numbers in the Exhortation.
When you imagine a political radical or famous revolutionary, who do you think of?
Bill Berkowitz for Buzzflash writes, “I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’m pretty sure that Pope Francis is not walking around with Mao’s Red Book stuffed into an inside pocket of his papal robes, or that he’s starting a study group for Das Capital. Nevertheless, with the release of a new book titled “Pope Francis: This Economy Kills,” the Pope’s critics are sure to ratchet up their labelling of him with the “C” word (Communist), and the “M” word (Marxist).”
Religion News Service reported: First, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck labeled Pope Francis a Marxist. Now, The Economist is accusing him of following Vladimir Lenin. “[Francis] observes what he calls the ‘idolatry of money’ in some places and hungry children in others … he concludes that economists must be missing some important point,” the magazine said.
Bloomberg Business report asks, “Is a Communist running the Vatican? Pope Francis, after stirring controversy with his “who am I to judge?” comment on homosexuality, now is under attack for his criticisms of capitalism.”
The quotation of Karl Marx, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”, describes what many people in our secularized society think religion should be: a sigh, heartless and soulless, opium. In contrast, Francis reveals that the truth of the Gospel “is not merely about our personal relationship with God” . “It is no longer possible,” he writes, “to claim that religion should be restricted to the private sphere and that it exists only to prepare souls for heaven.” . “Christian conversion demands…reviewing the societal order, penetrating every human situation and all social bonds. Christian preaching and life are meant to have an impact on society.” [182, 178, 180]. And for Francis that means running the risk of being labeled a Communist or Marxist.
- does not religion have a right to offer its insights, critiques and values on events affecting society for the common good?
- If religion does not speak up or is silenced, are there not multiple voices within society offering values that are antithetical to Christianity and to what may be best for the common good?
- Can the Church be true to herself and Jesus by remaining on the sidelines in the pursuit of justice which is the fertile ground for peace?
For Francis the most important Gospel mandate for our age is this social dimension of the Gospel. Christian conversion demands…
- that we be aware of people who are oppressed,
- that we get personally engaged in the life of others,
- that we compassionately live alongside those who are suffering, less fortunate or burdened by societal structures that oppress people,
- that we work to changing these structures in the church and society for too many people, in particular children and women, are burdened by injustice and are in need of protection.
Francis invites us not to just reflect on these questions but to work for…
- ending the plight of refugees risking their lives fleeing poverty, drought, and terrorism
- to work for…the elimination of the causes of poverty and disease.
- to work for…integrating the poor and offering them a place at the economic table of the world.
- to work for…the elimination of laws that support the exploitation of human beings.
Are we willing to contemplate and ask ourselves if the planet earth with its vegetation and creatures have rights alongside human beings? Or is the planet and its resources only for the use and exploitation of a few wealthy and powerful nations and multinationals?
Are we willing to question the repercussions that are experienced across the globe by the decisions of governments and regions? Consider. Do not all living creatures of the planet breathe then same air polluted by the top four polluting nations of China, the United States, Russia and India? Can any business, government or region make decisions today without taking into consideration the common good of humanity and the planet?
Communism and Francis can look alike. The difference? Communism and Marxism place the human being at the center of a heartless world; a cog in an impersonal machine. Pope Francis also places the human being at the center of the world as well but as the measure of our decisions. It is by what brings dignity, equality and goodness to human beings that all decisions are to be evaluated. No institution or societal structure are exempt from this obligation. Thus Francis desires, “a Church which is poor and for the poor [because] they have much to teach us. . And what do the poor teach us? “The poor teach us about the goodness of humanity…The poor person, when loved, “is esteemed as a great value””  in and of themselves. The poor, the human being, are not cogs of production; WE are the dignity of God . In essence Francis comes among us to upset the applecart of this world’s values with the values of the Gospel. A Gospel message in which…
- the first become last and the last become first;
- where the person who worked one hour is paid the same as a person who worked twelve hours;
- where ninety-nine sheep are left unattended in search of one lost sheep;
- where the guilty and sinner are sent home, forgiven and saved;
- where there is more than enough for everyone to be satisfied.
“Is a Communist running the Vatican? Is Pope Francis a Marxist or just a good Christian?