Me chilling out with a cardboard version of Pope Frank
More than a year ago, I embarked on this journey that was meant to take me through all of this beautiful document. Today, I find myself humbled, as I`m no nowhere near even the halfway mark of Evangelii Gaudium. Nevertheless, I remain joyful of the fact that I have been able to deepen my understanding of Pope Francis a little more through this exercise. One thing that has stood out for me about him throughout this past year,is that he`s not interested in criticizing the world as we know it. This means, he’s not likely to dismiss the world as sinful as so many Christians are prone to do. In fact, quite the opposite, like most pontiffs before him, he celebrates the culture and diversity of our world, and embraces many expressions of authentic life found in it. What he criticizes, are structures within it that lead it people astray. More specifically, he criticizes this attitude within capitalism that allows the market economy "to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits." ( EG 56) He even goes as far as to say that this attitude which puts greed before the well-being of others, is an obvious rejection of ethics, and worse, a rejection of God. ( EG 57)
As I discussed in the previous entry, it’s obvious that such statements have not won friends for Francis among many Catholics who eagerly participate in this economic system, and see no conflict between it and their Christian faith. But here, we see another quality of Francis that shines through: he is unafraid to speak his mind, even if his candor will ‘offend’ some of his fellow Catholics. What's important to understand, is that he does not do this to offend, but to challenge. He’s inviting us to take a good look at the world we live in and operate in, and to ask hard questions like ‘how do our actions or attitudes, remove us from God? What can we –either individually or collectively- do to restore that bond with God, and with others?’
Despite the fact that these are important questions to ask, many of the pope's critics will probably continue to argue that when it comes to his understanding of the economy, he is rather naïve, disconnected from what they see as 'the reality of our world'. This would be especially true when they hear him demand the economic system "return to an ethical approach which favors human beings" (EG 58). For in their eyes, the culture of profit and wealth is king, and has little use for that pesky little voice that speaks to them about morals or ethics in their conscience, a voice that they see as being counterproductive (EG 57) to the 'greater good' of the market economy culture. In short, a moralistic and ethical voice is one that becomes like a voice crying out in the wilderness of modern times, a voice that ‘condemns…the debasement ‘of people, and leads us back to God, who transcends the categories created by the marketplace (nay, the whole world) (57). Ethics is in fact, the very tool that can help us ‘restore that bond with God,’ first in our lives, then in our culture, and finally, in our world.
This reflection on the role that ethics could play in our world, brings me to one final characteristic of Pope Francis that has marked me in this past year: As we've just seen, he’s not afraid to challenge anyone. And he doesn't limit himself to those involved in unethical business practices. Those of you who listen to his daily homilies will notice that most of his challenges are addressed to individual Christians( Christians that are too sad, that gossip too much, that are not concerned enough about the plight of others, that forget how joyful following Jesus truly can be, that focus too much on securing influential positions for themselves etc…) His message to the universal Church is quite simple: "the changes you want to see in the Church, must begin with you, in the way you live out your relationship with God and with others."
Of course, what has made Pope Francis catch the attention of so many in our world is his propensity to question the injustices in our world, and challenge those who have power in our world (i.e. politicians) to stand up to those injustices and help remove them. Like many of his predecessors, he realizes that if you can influence those in power, you can have a positive impact on the world as a whole. This is why Francis urges, pokes and prods the leaders of the world reminding them that money exists not to rule, but to serve people (EG 58). Likewise, the Pope also addresses the rich (who are often leaders in their own way), reminding them that they too are loved by the Holy Father, but that he will spend more time encouraging them to help, respect and promote the poor. And no...this is not a message intended only for the rich. All of us, who claim to be inspired by the Pope, are asked to live out this care of the poor as well as he does.In his addresses and exhortations to the faithful, he reminds us that we should not allow this idea so central to our faith remain just an idea. We need to ensure that it is central to our life as well. And I feel that as long as these wonderful ideas of care for the other, and concern for those who suffer are not lived out more fully by the faithful, this Pope will continue laboring to teach the faithful, and the entire world, that our care for those who suffer is the most authentic expression of Christian life. May his words and wisdom continue to inspire our own journey
towards a faith that is authentically lived.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.