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292 of 295 people found the following review helpful
I am an evangelical protestant but it is my fervent hope that this "exhortation" will be widely read across the community of Christ throughout the world. The Bishop of Rome has written a powerful call to all Christians reminding us of our common mission and our common faith. He has called upon us to embrace that mission with joy, passion, and love for all. Following in the tradition of John Chrysostom, Francis' exhortation is overflowing with a deep and abiding concern for the marginalized while revealing that both the political right and left have embraced two varieties of the identical sin: idolatry of self.

As an aside, accounts of this "exhortation" in the popular press could hardly be more misleading in their emphasis. Many news stories have focused on a fragment of a single sentence that says inviting women into the Priesthood is "not open for discussion." (To be clear, this subject is not addressed beyond this small portion of this single sentence.) Nor is this exhortation merely - or even mostly - a road map for the Roman Church. From the very first page, Francis makes clear that he is reaching out to the entirety of Christ's body on earth: "I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ..." It certainly speaks to Catholics, but it is simultaneously aimed at all Christians everywhere.

Francis begins with the most precise description I have ever seen of the ravine in which the modern West has become trapped: "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."

His approach to escaping this ravine is the same as it ever was: follow the steep and narrow path cut by the Joy of the Gospel. And for my Protestant friends, Francis could not be clearer that this is an unmerited gift: "The salvation which God offers us is the work of his mercy. No human efforts, however good they may be, can enable us to merit so great a gift..." or "No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. "

Francis reminds us that, "Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us ... All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love."

If I have any discomfort with this exhortation, it is at those (thankfully few) moments when Francis seems to shift from calling upon Christians to calling upon governments to redress the plight of the marginalized. Here, we would do well to remind ourselves of Chrysostom's warning with respect to this. We would also do well to remember that governments by their nature always serve the selfish needs of their kings and courts (God warned us of this in 1 Samuel chapter 8). This is not to say that I disagree with the ends the Pope seeks, only that governments are a fundamentally flawed instrument for furthering God's Kingdom. Nonetheless, we can and should join with him in praying that politicians will receive appropriate guidance.

There is a great deal here which all Christians ought to embrace. To be sure, many Protestants will feel discomfort at the Marian language near the end of the exhortation, and those reared to distrust the Deuterocanonical Books/Apocrypha will bristle at quotations from Tobias, Sirach, and others. Thankfully, Francis takes time to ground each major theme in sources deemed authoritative by all, as if to remind the Protestant reader at each turn that he and we remain standing on common ground (a point which he makes very explicit in discussing the evangelization of non-Christian cultures).

Pope Francis' exhortation stands as a challenge to all Christians to embrace the Joy of the Gospel and to live as if the world depended upon it - because it does. It has certainly rankled specific groups with specific agendas (from traditionalists to progressives, from economic liberals to social liberals) but in all of the discussion about one sentence or another, I hope and pray that the message does not get lost: it is time for all Christians - the clergy, the laity, women and men across denominations - to joyfully embrace the missionary mandate of the Gospel through our words, our actions, and our whole selves.
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133 of 142 people found the following review helpful
I am not Catholic. All the same, I cannot deny this new Pope has been very dynamic and refreshingly unique. I respect his persona, humility and the open, friendly demeanor he has demonstrated to the peoples of all nations. This is an interesting new book and is written very skillfully. It avoids much of the overly-pious rhetoric which frequently accompanies many theological books. Actually, most of the content is non-denominational and deals with common sense, logic and the simple kind of morality all humans should make a concerted effort to practice, no matter your religious preference. It carries a universal message of hope and respect which all humanity can benefit from. Even atheists can learn from this work if they would simply open their mind to the common sense of the book's valuable lessons.
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73 of 79 people found the following review helpful
This book really does exceed my expectations, maybe because it is so easy to read and it seems to be written from the Holy Father's heart and experience. The format, numbered and delineated paragraphs, makes this perfect for mediation reflections during evening prayer time. And' no' I am not a religious, I am a 79 year old widow, loving hearing from the Holy Father on a personal level.
Pope Francis does not downplay any of the Church's teachings he merely asks that the teaching be done in a loving, gentle manner, instead of strict authoritarianism. And that we broaden our focus to some of the other teachings, like those of Jesus Christ to care for His beloved poor.
And that for me is a bonus, it inspires me to be more active in assisting the poor in my city. (Still cramming for my finals!)
I highly recommend this book. Read with an open mind and heart I promise it will bring you great Joy.
Betsy
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
With so much hubub centered around the comments the Holy Father wrote about “trickle-down” economics in Evangelii Gaudium, the entire population, including Catholics, have ignored some excellent points from the exhortation. In Section II, Pope Francis explains that, “Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others.” This is a beautiful truth that can be shared across the religious spectrum and is no doubt why this pope in particular is gaining so many admirers from the non-Catholic Christians brethren and even the non-religious.

He’s funny also. In the same section, he says, “...an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” Later he acknowledges the proclivity of some pastors to ramble on in less-than-inspirational homilies: “We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them!”

There’s no escaping the controversial section on economics, however, and I cannot see it any other way than the Pope criticizing the free market. Of course, he’s right when he says that the free-market alone doesn’t lead to a holy society, but I don’t think anyone is claiming that. What the free market does exponentially better than the alternative statist, socialist, or centralized economies is distribute wealth in the most effective and efficient way possible and has brought more people out of poverty than any other institution on Earth, including the Church.

In Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father offers readers a wonderful exhortation from which anyone, Catholic or otherwise, can garner wisdom. Despite the glaring flaw in his economic terminology, this is an excellent read.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2014
Reports in typical media are distorted by focus on a few ideas. The total work is excellent as a urge to Catholics to get out and get busy spreading the faith - quite a few excellent specific points of advice on how to do it.
The general pitch about society being too focused on consumerism is much needed.
john sloan
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2014
Jesus' message was about compassion, of course among other concepts. Pope Francis was asked to write this exhortation and he accepted the challenge "joyfully".

I really respect Pope Francis' approach to the gospel. He denotes joy as the essential ingredient in sharing the gospel (a process) with others. Noteworthy: his concept of evangelizing is not proselytizing or accosting others; nor does he want us to bug others with little fliers and/or sect selling speeches. He instead tells us that once we accept the gospel fully we can live Jesus' message with such thorough happiness (joy) that our embracing the gospel will infectiously spread from us to others.

My first read reminded me of flavours of Buddhism (e.g. the Laughing Buddha) and even of Thich Nhat Hanh's process-in-action books such as "Peace Is Every Step". Pope Francis writes turgid material but not so much that only scholars can understand. He writes for all: just unplug, turn off the music and TV.

I like where Pope Francis wants to steer the church. Now that he's begun cleaning out the "K-Street" of the Vatican, the joy of the gospel will truly shine!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2013
I have to echo what another reviewer said: "I found it intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving." This book is a great piece of work. It is very well written, theologically rich, and culturally relevant. It is basically a systematic theology that is interlaced with piercing cultural commentary and a concern for others that is clearly genuine. I was probably more impressed than some given my prejudice toward high church officials that they tend to live under a rock. Pope Francis nails his diagnosis of what is ailing the world, how the church has gone astray, and what the way forward is. His scripture references are many and his use of past theologians apt.

The book is clearly written for clergy (e.g., one section is on preaching), but nearly all of it can be appreciated and applied by a wider audience. Non-Catholics may space out near the end. But other than that, this is a fantastic book by a Pope who is showing the potential for bringing the Catholic Church out of the middle ages and the Church in general out of its self-vindicating, abstract faith.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2014
I read this book in a quiet place to absorb in an attempt to take in all that Pope Francis is saying. Great guide for all....young to seniors. Read it in small amounts to get the most from each chapter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Who doesn't love listening to this man speak. Soft spoken and eloquent, his first Apostolic Exhortation comes with a call to all men and women to live the joy of the gospel every day.

A bit of a read with the smaller print of this edition but one that every Christian should take time to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2014
It's hard to write a review on a pope's book because it's so much more than just a literary effort. It's inspired by the Holy Spirit and goes to a level much deeper. Pope Francis is really calling all Catholics to a deeper faith including spreading the gospel through works of mercy, yet he does it in a way that upholds the church's teachings. In learning about the early church, one of the things that always comes through is that people were converted to Christianity because of the joy of Christians. This is how I see Pope Francis. People (Catholics, Christians and non-believers) are attracted to him because he is a walking example of the joy of Christ Jesus. This book is a wonderful testimony to that faith and joy. I recommend it highly.
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