Blog # 439 A Prophet's Reward
Pope Francis' Exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel was published in 2013. It is an appeal to the whole world and not just to Catholics to reach out to discover, assess, and respond to the conditions of life in which people around the world in our current moment of history live. He expresses deep and sincere concern for the great number of people who live in dire poverty with little hope for anything better. The book reflects Pope Francis' wonderful humble happy disposition so many people in all walks of life throughout the world have noticed and welcomed in the short time since he was elected to his post in Rome.
In great detail and in clear recommendations Francis focuses problems, challenges, opportunities, and resources that are or can be made available for achieving a world where everyone will be able to live as God desires, happy and at peace with one another. Changes in attitudes, lifestyles, and economic procedures we have taken for granted as the best may have to be reassessed in a new light. New ways of thinking about the whole world as belonging to us all in one way or another are likely to be very difficult to share. I hope people will not write the exhortation off as an impossible dream and that all will be blessed by God with an awareness of the part each of us will be called upon to play in order to make the 'dream' a reality.
I think it might have been a response to the word Joy in the title of the exhortation that a certain text from the Gospel of St. John came to my mind today as I sat down to compose Blog # 439. "You will live in my love if you keep my commandments, even as I have kept my Father's commandments and live in His love. All this I tell you that my joy be yours and your joy may be complete." (Jn. 15 11). In his Exhortation to the world Pope Francis clearly proclaimed and emphasized the fact there is joy here on earth as well as in Heaven for those who dedicate themselves to living out the Gospel message Jesus brought from Heaven.
I thought back to November 4, 1954, just six months after I had been ordained a priest and the Feast Day of my Patron Saint, St. Charles Borromeo, as I drove the 45 miles home from the Georgia State prison where I had just brought his first Holy Communion to the first man I would Baptize, and then witness his death in the electric chair. I had been driving back and forth daily for the previous three weeks instructing him in the faith and in that process learning it in a more personal way than I had learned it in my text books.
I was happy and thankful that the prayer I had offered back in fourth year high school when I began thinking of becoming a priest, that I would flunk Latin so I would have a sign from God that I need not think further about becoming a priest was not taken seriously by God. A clever kid!
I think the feeling and experience I had while driving home from the prison is what Pope Francis is inviting all of us to discover through dedicating ourselves together as a worldwide community of human beings to making whatever changes might have to be made, facing together whatever challenges we will face, and whatever new attitudes we might have to assume in the name and desire of the Creator of us all toward the poor among us in our current world of seven billion people.