The other Encyclical
Before there was a hype about Laudato Si, there was, and still is just a hype around Evangeli Gaudium. I have read Evangeli Gaudium before, but when I was given the Catholic Mission accompanying guide (see below), I was reacquainted with the joy of the Gospel.
This guide, has a range of essays from different Catholic groups in Australia on what living the joy of the gospel means to them. There are a few things as always that speak to me.
One of the phrases that is regularly quoted from EG is the idea of being a Christian who 'smells like the sheep.' Jesus was a shepherd who smelled like his sheep. That is, he was with the poor, the dying, the ill without judgement, without hesitation, with mercy and love. Pope Francis is like this too, and we are called to be like this as well. This is something I want to be better at. Really getting out there and being with those who are directly impacted by the climate crisis. Those who are combatting to fight the climate crisis.
On this, the guide here reminds up of the call that Pope Francis puts to all leaders on this challenge. As Julie Morgan puts it in here essay,
'Image [Pope Francis] telling us quite plainly that board directors and executive teams must look into faces more often than looking into systems.' How true is this!! We need to do this in every aspect of our lives.
Many of the authors discuss the challenges that EG mentions in relation to parishes. Julie Morgan and Anne Cummins for example reminds us of the messages about including women in decision-making within parishes. Fr Tim Norton describes the issues in this way:
"Australian parishes are in transition like it or not. Older pastors are being asked to work longer hours over larger areas as their numbers decline. Many dioceses across the country are reconfiguring their worshipping communities through challenging merging processes that are often painful for regional and rural Catholics. Some parishes remain mono-cultural while others represent growing numbers of people from a variety of nations and generations. Flexible parishes are responding to change by taking on a more progressive style of welcome and worship while others are becoming sad places."
If there was ever a paragraph that explained my experience between the Maryborough parish in Queensland to the Springfield parish....this is it. He discusses the migrant Church and how our Christian communities of Australia are growing in migrant populations who have proved that they are a great resource and they help us to participate more fully in the mission of God. This is so very accurate. I have always found the Springfield parish to be a place of great joy... the joy of the Gospel. And I very much missed that when I moved away and started attending the Maryborough parish. In EG 28-43, we see that even Pope Francis says that within parishes, we need to be flexible, and we need to re-examine old customs to see whether they still suit our current situation. Elise Ganley reminds us that in this space, it is essential to bring young peoples voices into this. I think on the matters of parishes, I completely agree. I remember sitting in a parish meeting in Maryborough where the older parish leaders told the young people what they wanted them to do.... where as it should have been the older parish leaders listening to the youth and what they wanted out of their parish to help them encounter Christ. Pope Francis points out the vital need to be inclusive as opposed to exclusive.
From Professor Anne Cummins, we see in the guide a reflection on how educators live the joy of the gospel. Profession Cummins asks the question to Catholic employers of "how do we avoid an economy of exclusion and inequality?" In our world, including in our Catholic organizations, employees are seen as objects that can be capitalized on. And to an extent, we see this of our students as well. She argues that EG points to some uncomfortable truths about our institutions that have moved away from their missionary purpose in search of prestige, trying to keep up with the dominant culture, when all along, we were never meant to be that.
In both the discussion about parishes, youth and schools, we continue to see this theme reflected about the need to be inclusive. Elise Ganley even reminds us that in our daily lives our excessive and pointless consumerism excludes and exploits the poor. In order to free ourselves from this pattern of exclusion, we need to try our best to smell like the sheep as Jesus did.