Recently it was reported that an Italian bishop had disparagingly said that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel, could have been written by a campesino.
I can think of no greater way to actually praise this work.
This merits a longer analysis but here are a few remarks remarks followed by a few quotes on the poor from that document which has over 60 references to the poor.
Concern for the poor is central to our faith in part because the Son of God came among us as a poor man and lived among the poor.
186. Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members.
Therefore, we are called to become instruments of God’s liberating love with the poor:
187. Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid. A mere glance at the Scriptures is enough to make us see how our gracious Father wants to hear the cry of the poor…
But the poor also can teach us:
198. For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one. God shows the poor “his first mercy”. This divine preference has consequences for the faith life of all Christians, since we are called to have “this mind… which was in Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:5). Inspired by this, the Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a “special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness”. in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness”. This option – as Benedict XVI has taught – “is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty”. This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives and to put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim way. We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.
That means that our sense of mission must include the poor as a priority, for they are “the privileged recipients of the Gospel.”
48. If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that “there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor”. May we never abandon them.
Our selfish individualism closes us to God and to the poor:
2. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too.
But when we open ourselves to the poor and accompany them, we can experience their joys and their sufferings.
7. I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to.
193. We incarnate the duty of hearing the cry of the poor when we are deeply moved by the suffering of others.
Yes, a campesino could have written it – or a follower of the Word made Flesh among campesinos, twenty centuries ago in Bethlehem.