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on December 15, 2013
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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on March 19, 2014
A clear, joyous statement of what our world can be if we truly follow the words of Christ. Popes have said many of these things before, but I think people are paying attention to Francis for two reasons: 1) He "practices what he preaches," e.g., visits the homeless, embraces a seriously disfigured man, and washes the feet of prisoners (not other Cardinals) on Holy Thursday. 2) He is a good communicator, who writes in accessible, understandable, and friendly language. And he writes for all Christians--not just Catholics. Actually, he writes for all people. I especially wish our policymakers and politicians would read this.
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on June 27, 2015
Pope Francis, like Pope John XXIII, like Jesus is a bit of a scandal to his own hierarchy. He is a fully human being, with experiences which make him compassionate with the poor, with the handicapped, with the downtrodden and with the sinners; yet with an education and a Jesuit training and a Franciscan Spirituality at odds with a Church which may have become ossified in its approach to the modern world. He is willing to break with convention to tell his Church, "Who am I to judge them", I want to go to them with compassion, forgiveness and love...as Jesus would have done.
But the Gospel and the Eucharist are not going to receive much appreciation from the media as much as the Encyclical on Global Warming seems to be having. That's too bad, for faith itself is that which is so essential for an understanding of the messages of Francis, John and Jesus.
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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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on February 20, 2015
This is a document rather than a book. It's the masterpiecet of a man of great humility, holiness and spiritual insight. It's a written statement of one mans' spiritual life, a life of faith, prayer, deep reflection, discipline and Jesuit formation. He anchors his work on the inspired words and example of Jesus and the gospel. Francis maps out the way to a full and happy personal, social and spiritual life. His basic reference is the gospel and works of Jesus "love one another as I have loved you"...."by this shall all people know that you are my disciplels in the love you have for one another"...."do to no one what you would not want them do to you...". Pope Francis points us to the need for all to be mindful of our place in the wider community and our rights and responsibities for the wellbeing and needs of social order, the impliclations of globalization on the lives of people and especially how the poor are victimized. He covers the various social systems, the role of capitalism in a world that sees more of world wealth and rresources being in the hands of the elite and an ever increading number of the dispossessed. He points out the false idols we worship today, serving Mammom instead of God and the needs of others. The writer links this false worship to many of our modern evils of war, social unrest, terrorism, the extremes of which are often linked to our own making. Pope Francis assures us that we need to return to the simplicity of gospel living and refelct anew on the Word of God and the teachings of Jesus. Learn anew the mystery of life that God wished all to live.in faith, peace, love and hamony of a social family, and realize that we are born to love and not to violence and death.
I highly recommend this reading. It will help people reflect on life and our purpose in living. A good buy also.

Jerry O'Mahony
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on March 22, 2017
This is one of the best books I have read--other than the Bible itself--about how to bring people to Christ by living out the Gospel. St. Francis said: "Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." Evangelization is about sharing the Good News. To be truly effective, we have to deepen the Word in so that the Word lives in us--not only in speech but in action. This is a primer by someone--a living saint I believe--who walks his talk. He invites us to do the same through words and action. If we know Jesus died for our sins, that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, how can we not want to share that Good News with others? The call to evangelize today is more urgent than ever. Read this book!
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on May 22, 2014
This is not simply a teaching tool, it is a book meant for slow and repeated reflection. Each paragraph and the biblical reference that Francis ask us to reflect upon can, and should, be used for study, reflection, and prayer.This is the finest book of spirituality I have read in my life time. It take all the best from the documents of Vatican II, and puts our obligation to the poor into the present moment. Our Christian Church must become"bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets.More then by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within our structures....while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us "Give them something to eat"
Today in America we have unprecedented wealth occurring concurrently with poverty not seen since the worst days of the Great Depression.The bottom 15% of Americans{30 million} live in substandard housing, or on our streets. they have a 90% probability of not finishing H.S. and the boys a 70% chance of ending up in our prison system.Most of these children suffer from food insufficiency and are getting health care comparable to the 3rd world. All of this exist at a time when the top 1% are enjoying the greatest share of annual income, and hold more of the wealth{savings} then ever recorded in American history.
This last paragraph is directed to my fellow Catholics. Please do not allow"Evangelii Gaudium become just another "X" rated Catholic document that is read and soon dumped into the trash heap of history. Further, do not think that because you belong to a Suburban or small town parish that is removed my distance from the poor, that you are excused from this most bless Exhortation, you are not.Francis is a very special gift from Christ, but only if we are willing ,with open hearts, to listen to his words.
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on April 8, 2016
There is some decent writing in "The Joy of the Gospel". In particular, I enjoyed the discussion on the "smell of the sheep" that lends one to become busy with actions rather then words. Unfortunately, I also find the writing both repetitive and wordy without need. In my opinion the writing could have been much shorter and still manage to deliver the same message. Regardless, I will say that Pope Francis writes from the heart and shuns the often expected intellectual only language. I appreciate when someone writes from the heart what they truly mean and feel. It can be a refreshing.
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on January 23, 2014
This extraordinary document, an apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis, is so compelling that President Obama even quoted it to lend moral credibility to a speech he gave in December 2013. It outlines the pope's vision of the church and its mission of evangelization in today's world, suggesting guidelines for spreading the gospel in today's world of haves and have-nots. This document is so full of rich spirituality, deep theology, and compassionate social analysis that it boggles the mind to consider how easily it flows. Personally, I found the fresh vision of Christianity's role in the world today in the first half of the letter even more compelling than the second half, where we get a bit more church-speak and dense theology. But it's all wonderful. This letter transcends the pope's Jesuit roots and even the Catholic Church. I know many non-Catholics who have read it with delight and amazement. Essentially, the central question here is how to spread Jesus Christ's message to love God and love your neighbor in our technological society that brushes aside the poor in its self-seeking vanity. The answer of Francis will surprise you. Although this letter is available for free at the Vatican website along with all of the Holy Father's addresses, I find this lightweight paperback from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) much easier on the eyes. Initially, I read the entire letter online, but it was such a struggle to plow through the text on a screen (220-some pages on an iPad!) that it took me a few weeks. Now I'm very glad to have a paperback in this attractive design. For all who appreciate holding a text that doesn't need to be recharged or clicked upon, but prefers something solid to read by the bedside in meditation, I think this edition is the one to get.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 13, 2013
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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