One of my parishioners recently asked me, “What Year is this?” No, she had not just awakened from a coma. She noted that the Year of Faith had ended and wondered what the focus would be for the next year.
I explained that the Church does not have a particular focus for each year. The Year of Faith was a special season for the whole Church to focus on knowing, living and sharing the faith. However, for the Christian, each year is marked by AD (an abbreviation for the Latin Anno Domini), which means “the year of our Lord”.
Though there is no particular thing for Catholics to focus on in 2014, Pope Francis did end the Year of Faith by publishing an Apostolic Exhortation entitled Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). This document, written by the Pope, summarizes the recent synod (fall, 2012), where bishops from around the world gathered in Rome to discuss The New Evangelization. This document seems to set the agenda for Pope Francis’ pontificate. Pope Francis has a knack for getting to the heart of things.
Early on in the letter he summarizes one of the problems of modern culture:
“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.”
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace’. Though this document is a bit on the longish side, it is very readable. I encourage all of you to go to www.vatican.va and download Evangelii Gaudium and read it. I am spending at least ten minutes a day and expect to finish it within two months.”
“Spiritfilled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit made the apostles go forth from themselves and turned them into heralds of God’s wondrous deeds, capable of speaking to each person in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (in Greek: parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco