In my first attempt to offer up a reflection, I do so with the understanding that these are my own thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the message pronounced in Pope Francis' new encyclical. ~~~ ><(((O>
I imagine Pope Francis' encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, to be somewhat like a road map that Catholics are encouraged to use. The roads Pope Francis outlines in this map are neither smooth nor do they cross over scenic locales.
Instead, the path he outlines for us is a bumpy one, one filled with potholes, through unpleasant locations, but, ultimately, one where we will arrive having somehow changed as a result of the trip because of the encounters along the way. We know that the destination is worth the trip.
You see, the bumpy road is our faith lived out day to day, and our faith, ideally, is lived through our church, the church established by Christ. That the church is suffering now and in need of us, all of us, to come home to her, to defend her, to protect her and, at the same time, to open her up to others.
I grappled with how to approach Pope Francis' encyclical because I realize that all is not well in the church. All is not well outside the church. She is scorned, mistreated, abused. The rancor against Catholicism is palatable, like climbing a summit via a narrow path of jagged rocks.
Life today is not pleasant for many. It is often harsh, marked by nepotism, dishonesty and isolation. Ironically, any one of the seven sins could fit the bill to describe the devolution of our culture. Do wrath, greed, sloth, lust, envy, pride, and gluttony, ring a bell?
Although he does not state this explicitly, I think Pope Francis is asking us, in his opening lines of Evangelii Gaudium, to be part not only of the healing of our Holy Mother church, but also of ourselves, both on an individual level and on a collective level.
We live in a time of particular challenge. A time where the vices of evil seem to be encroaching in every aspect of daily life. In fact, sometimes, evil seems to have taken up residence in our communities, on our streets and perhaps even in our homes.
Yes, we will encounter the ugly, the mean, the spiritless on this trip, but if I understand it correctly, Pope Francis is asking us to take this path with a renewed sense of promise and a deeper commitment to love when it is easier not to, to look at the sores around us, and most importantly, to stop and do something about it.