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Pope Francis Offers the Joy of the Gospel in a Stunningly Beautiful Apostolic Exhortation

By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 28th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since "no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord". The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. (Pope Francis)

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - 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 shockwaves 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.

I will spend the Thanksgiving break praying through this beautiful gift to the whole Church.I suggest all of my readers do the same. 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. A review of it this morning brought me to tears and made me grateful to be alive in this age. However, it is more than a piece for reflection, it is a manifesto for action, a call to mission, and a blueprint.

You can print the apostolic exhortation off for yourself in HTML format here.Or, in PDF format here.I strongly advise every one of my readers to do so, immediately. Put it in a three ring binder and let it rock your world.

It will make for wonderful Thanksgiving reflective prayer and reading. It will also lend itself to resolutions as the new Church year, as well as the new secular year, both begin. It will soon be available in book format from several great sources. DO NOT WAIT! You will want to read this immediately - and prayerfully.Then, you will want to begin to live it. You will also want it with you  for continual reference next to where you pray.That is when the paperback version will be especially useful. Get those highlighters ready! I end with a short quote from the exhortation:

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Beginning of the Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis

1. THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church's journey in years to come.

I. A JOY EVER NEW, A JOY WHICH IS SHARED
2. 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. 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. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God's will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.

3. I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since "no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord".[1] The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.

Now is the time to say to Jesus: "Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace". How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another "seventy times seven" (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven.

Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!...

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