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By Deacon Keith A Fournier

8/6/2014 (10 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like a

One of the sad truths is that most Catholics - and other Christians - rarely read letters offered by the Pope. Many think they must be dry or too academic. Others think that they were intended only for theologians. Both perceptions are incorrect. That is why I have decided to use this platform given to me to expose as many of my readers to the treasure which these writings offer to each one of us as we seek to live our daily Christian lives. I sincerely hope that regularly offering excerpts from these inspiring writings will change this fact. 

My first reading of this apostolic exhortation brought me to tears and made me grateful to be alive in this new missionary age. However, it is more than a piece for reflection, it is a manifesto for action, a call to mission, and a blueprint.It is also a truly inspiring work which can help all Christians reflect on the deeper meaning of the Christian vocation.

My first reading of this apostolic exhortation brought me to tears and made me grateful to be alive in this new missionary age. However, it is more than a piece for reflection, it is a manifesto for action, a call to mission, and a blueprint.It is also a truly inspiring work which can help all Christians reflect on the deeper meaning of the Christian vocation.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/6/2014 (10 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Joy of the Gospel, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis, prayer, evangelization, spiriuality, Resurrection of Jesus, Deacon Keith Fournier


VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - One of the sad truths is that most Catholics - and other Christians - rarely read letters offered by the Pope. Many think they must be dry or too academic. Others think that they were intended only for theologians.

Both perceptions are incorrect.

That is why I have decided to use this platform given to me to expose as many of my readers to the treasure which these writings offer to each one of us as we seek to live our daily Christian lives. I sincerely hope that regularly offering excerpts from these inspiring writings will change this fact. 

The excerpt set forth below is taken from The Joy of the Gospel, an apostolic exhortation which was given to the whole Christian Church from Pope Francis on the Feast of Christ the King, November 26, 2013.   

Not only can you read this beautiful exhortation on line, it is available in a paperback version  which is wonderfully indexed. I encourage me readers to get the paperback edition and use this exhortation from Francis as a source of spiritual reflection in your daily prayer time. Make sure to have a highlighter nearby. It is truly inspiring and very helpful.

The Exhortation is 224 pages along, including a wonderful topical index, available at the beginning or the end, depending on the version. It is made for prayerful meditation as well as deep, continual study.

My first reading of this apostolic exhortation brought me to tears and made me grateful to be alive in this new missionary age. However, it is more than a piece for reflection, it is a manifesto for action, a call to mission, and a blueprint.It is also a truly inspiring work which can help all Christians reflect on the deeper meaning of the Christian vocation.

I first wrote about it in an article written for Catholic Online days after it was released. In my characteristic enthusiasm I wrote these words: "It will take your breath away in its evangelical fervor, spiritual insight, beauty, profound theology and depth of insight. Officially released this morning, the first Apostolic Exhortation written by Pope Francis is entitled The Joy of the Gospel and it will send shock-waves of the Holy Spirit when its impact is fully experienced.

"The Exhortation was offered to the faithful on the Feast of Christ the King when Francis symbolically handed it to a Bishop, a Priest, a Deacon and a Lay leader in a public gesture. As with everything he does, he was, in those words attributed to his namesake, Francis of Assisi, "preaching the gospel at all times and when necessary using words".

"The symbolic gesture indicated what this extraordinary exhortation, already being hailed as the manifesto of this Pope, confirms - this exhortation contains the marching orders for a new missionary age of the Church in the Third Millennium".

Sadly, my enthusiasm did not seem to evoke the kind of response I had hoped for. I have found that few Catholics are even aware this beautiful exhortation was even written. A very small number have read it.

I want to change that. Here is a small excerpt.

*****
An Excerpt from The Gospel of Joy
Pope Francis


Christ's resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force.

Often it seems that God does not exist: all around us we see persistent injustice, evil, indifference and cruelty. But it is also true that in the midst of darkness something new always springs to life and sooner or later produces fruit. On razed land life breaks through, stubbornly yet invincibly.

However dark things are, goodness always re-emerges and spreads. Each day in our world beauty is born anew, it rises transformed through the storms of history. Values always tend to reappear under new guises, and human beings have arisen time after time from situations that seemed doomed. Such is the power of the resurrection, and all who evangelize are instruments of that power.

At the same time, new difficulties are constantly surfacing: experiences of failure and the human weaknesses which bring so much pain. We all know from experience that sometimes a task does not bring the satisfaction we seek, results are few and changes are slow, and we are tempted to grow weary.

Yet, lowering our arms momentarily out of weariness is not the same as lowering them for good, overcome by chronic discontent and by a listlessness that parches the soul.

It also happens that our hearts can tire of the struggle because in the end we are caught up in ourselves, in a careerism which thirsts for recognition, applause, rewards and status. In this case we do not lower our arms, but we no longer grasp what we seek, the resurrection is not there. In cases like these, the Gospel, the most beautiful message that this world can offer, is buried under a pile of excuses.

Faith also means believing in God, believing that he truly loves us, that he is alive, that he is mysteriously capable of intervening, that he does not abandon us and that he brings good out of evil by his power and his infinite creativity. It means believing that he marches triumphantly in history with those who "are called and chosen and faithful" (Rev 17:14).

Let us believe the Gospel when it tells us that the kingdom of God is already present in this world and is growing, here and there, and in different ways: like the small seed which grows into a great tree (cf. Mt 13:31-32), like the measure of leaven that makes the dough rise (cf. Mt 13:33) and like the good seed that grows amid the weeds (cf. Mt 13, 24-30) and can always pleasantly surprise us.

The kingdom is here, it returns, it struggles to flourish anew. Christ's resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of that new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!

Because we do not always see these seeds growing, we need an interior certainty, a conviction that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Cor 4:7). This certainty is often called "a sense of mystery". It involves knowing with certitude that all those who entrust themselves to God in love will bear good fruit (cf. Jn 15:5). This fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable.

We can know quite well that our lives will be fruitful, without claiming to know how, or where, or when. We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force.
 
Sometimes it seems that our work is fruitless, but mission is not like a business transaction or investment, or even a humanitarian activity. It is not a show where we count how many people come as a result of our publicity; it is something much deeper, which escapes all measurement. It may be that the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit.

The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results. We know only that our commitment is necessary. Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the arms of the Father amid our creative and generous commitment. Let us keep marching forward; let us give him everything, allowing him to make our efforts bear fruit in his good time.

Keeping our missionary fervor alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who "helps us in our weakness" (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to flag in the missionary endeavor.

It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!

The missionary power of intercessory prayer

One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelization and to seek the good of others: it is the prayer of intercession. Let us peer for a moment into the heart of Saint Paul, to see what his prayer was like. It was full of people: "I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you. because I hold you in my heart" (Phil 1:4, 7). Here we see that intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation, since authentic contemplation always has a place for others.

This attitude becomes a prayer of gratitude to God for others. "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you" (Rom 1:8). It is constant thankfulness: "I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:4); "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you" (Phil 1:3).

Far from being suspicious, negative and despairing, it is a spiritual gaze born of deep faith which acknowledges what God is doing in the lives of others. At the same time, it is the gratitude which flows from a heart attentive to others. When evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed of self-absorption, they are desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others.

The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like a leaven in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father's heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them. We can say that God's heart is touched by our intercession, yet in reality he is always there first. What our intercession achieves is that his power, his love and his faithfulness are shown ever more clearly in the midst of the people.  (Paragraphs 276-283 from The Joy of the Gospel)

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for June 2015
Universal:
That immigrants and refugees may find welcome and respect in the countries to which they come.
Evangelization: That the personal encounter with Jesus may arouse in many young people the desire to offer their own lives in priesthood or consecrated life.


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