The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness, and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” Pope Francis begins his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelium Gaudium with these words, recalling the Church’s missionary role in the contemporary world. In encountering, in discovering the Person of Jesus, God made man, we find our salvation, and with it, our joy.
The Roman Pontiff goes right to the heart of the Gospel, where the beauty of God’s salvific love shines forth, shown in Christ death and resurrection. This is the Good News, the announcement the Church wants to bring to every human being. The Pope puts us on guard against certain challenges and temptations we may encounter here, such as worldliness, violence, selfishness, pessimism, etc., and points to ways to overcome them.
Pope Francis stresses the role that each of the baptized is called upon to play in spreading the Gospel message. Christians will proclaim the Gospel joyfully if they themselves, first of all, experience this encounter with Christ, through the sacraments and prayer, which spurs them to transmit their own experience to others: “The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him.” To enkindle the hearts of men and women today (see Lk 24:32), he points to the central role of the preaching of the God’s word, and suggests ways priests can prepare to do so effectively.
We are also invited to rediscover the power of the message of Christian fraternity, which needs to have “a real effect on our lives and in our communities.” In this context he considers the importance of the social inclusion of the poor, and the need to foster peace and dialogue, with an eye to “the future of humanity.” God wants to fill all men and women with joy.
This apostolic exhortation is undoubtedly a call to launch out “into the deep” (see Lk 5:4), striving to imbue all human realities with the Gospel message, certain that we can count on God’s all-powerful help. “Although we might be personally deficient, the grace of God converts us into useful instruments for aiding others. Regardless of our shortcomings, we are called to share with others the good news that God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2:4). The world and the Church need “Spirit-filled evangelizers,” who will open themselves without fear to the action of the Holy Spirit, who pray and work, knowing that we have Mary as the Mother and Star of the new evangelization.