The Joy of the Gospel
I really loved this book while reading it. But as I prepared to write a review I kept asking myself number of questions:
Who am I to judge a book by Pope Francis?
Who do I review a papal letter?
As well as many other questions. But I came to the conclusion that by engaging the writings of Pope Francis I was deeply challenged by this work, and other writings of Pope Francis. For a while now I have been struggling with and praying to live more joy. I do not want to be the grumpy old man sitting on the porch yelling at kids, like Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino. And realizing I do not exude joy and happiness I thought this Apostolic Exhortation would be a good place to begin. And to be honest it has been in my to read pile since before it came out.
This edition of this book has a forward by Bishop Robert Baron, whose works I am very familiar with and respect. And an afterward by James Martin SJ who I am much less familiar with. But the key player is Pope Francis himself. Now to share a personal story, my wife is not Catholic, she comes to church with the kids and I, but she is not Catholic. Around the time this book came out the was a photo that went viral of the pope hugging a disfigured man. The man has neurofibromatosis, a condition that my son has been diagnosed with. My wife had an appreciation for Pope Francis, but after that photo went viral he held a close spot in her heart. My wife shared the photo saying that this is what our son has, and she can only hope if his goes active that he is as respected and cared about.
Now to be honest I started this book a few times, and never finished it. Then recently I picked it up and read it through. I do not believe that anyone can read this book and not be touched. Readers will be challenged to grow in joy by encounters with Jesus, and through that joy to witness to the world. This is a call to love and be loved. To be transformed by the power of Jesus and through that transformation to be a tool to the world. If we are Jesus hands, feet and mouth in the world, then this book shows us the importance of living a good witness, but also calls us out of our comfort zone.
I read this book after starting a new job. Each day I pray to live more joy, and to do good work for God. In my new role I can also walk to noon hour mass at the University I went to. Both a co-worker and my boss have found out I do so and have shown interest in coming to mass. And I attribute their attraction to weekday mass to the changes this book are helping to happen in me.
If you want to keep going through life living day in and day out as you are then do not read this book. But if you are open to being challenged, moves, stirred and likely even made uncomfortable then this book is for you. It is an excellent read and I really wish I had read it sooner.
(Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: A Year of Reading Intention - Catholic Reading!)