May 23, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord

Life in community, engagement with others, at very heart of Gospel

Archbishop Joseph W. TobinThe world is shrinking. More than ever before, we find ourselves in proximity to those who are far away from us geographically. Social communications and modern transportation make interaction among peoples and cultures possible in ways that our grandparents never imagined.

Sadly, our awareness of happenings within the global village is severely limited. Just watch any of the cable news networks. Very little time is devoted to news. And the news we actually see or hear reported rarely concerns matters beyond our own borders. We are an increasingly global community, but our perspective remains perilously local.

In Chapter 4 of “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis calls our attention to “The Social Dimension of Evangelization.” The Holy Father reminds us that while our faith in Jesus Christ is deeply personal, it is never private. “At the very heart of the Gospel,” the pope teaches, “is life in community and engagement with others” (#177).

To ignore the social implications of Christ’s teaching is to completely misunderstand his message. “The Gospel is about the loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity” (#180).

During my years of service to the Redemptorist congregation, I had the privilege of visiting 70 of the 78 countries throughout the world where my Redemptorist brothers serve.

Traveling to different corners of the globe made me keenly aware of the ways in which our world is shrinking. It also convinced me that we have a long way to go before we truly develop the kind of global awareness that all our recent popes have urged us to cultivate as we accept our baptismal call to proclaim the Gospel both here at home and throughout the world.

Earlier this year, I invited a diverse group of people from different regions and ministries of the archdiocese to help me reflect on “The Joy of the Gospel.” I especially asked them to join me in reflecting on the question, “Where is the Holy Spirit opening a door for us here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis?” Let me share with you some thoughts that emerged from this group’s prayer, reflection and discussion—using the synthesis prepared by The Criterion’s John Shaughnessy.

On the front cover of “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis is shown greeting people, his right hand extended in a gesture of welcome. His face is also open and joyful. And while he appears to be in the midst of a crowd, his eyes show that he is looking deeply at someone—like that person, in even the most brief of moments and encounters, is the only person he is focused on, the most important person to him. It’s an approach the pope has lived in his embrace of the poor, the disabled, the immigrant, the suffering and the lost.

Pope Francis calls us to solidarity with the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the stranger and even those whom we consider to be our enemy. But solidarity with others has its foundation in our encounter with the person of Jesus Christ and with the individual women and men who make up the family of God.

The work of Catholic Charities across the archdiocese was saluted for its efforts to offer shelter to the homeless, support for young women who are pregnant, and other assistance to people in need. It was also recommended that during those times of helping people that there is an emphasis on having people present at shelters and food pantries who have extra time to listen to the stories of people in need, to be present to them. There was also a call for a greater focus on helping people move beyond their need for assistance, to help them develop the skills and the means for attaining a better life.

Our local Church is no stranger to the needs of the poor in our midst. We are equally generous in our response to needs in other parts of this country and the world at large. Pope Francis urges us to build on the native generosity of our people, to grow in our awareness and understanding, and to let the poor (“who have much to teach us,” #126) show us how to live the Gospel in our daily lives.

As we prepare for the great feast of Pentecost, let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds, and expand our hearts. May we proclaim the social dimension of the Gospel always! †

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