Seriously, how do you review an apostolic exhortation of the pope? ;) I have zero theology degrees, and I fall short so often of the woman I think Jesus wants me to be...so I don't feel very qualified to review this book...
Yet maybe that's exactly why I should review it!
Because despite the intimidating first impression you might have of it--"Evangelii Gaudium, an apostolic exhortation of the the Holy Father, Pope Francis"-- the translation The Joy of the Gospel is incredibly simple, incredibly beautiful, and incredibly applicable to every single person on this earth (no degrees required...you don't even have to be Catholic to appreciate this message).
Pope Francis wrote this book focusing on two intertwining aspects of our faith: evangelization and joy. It is packed with beautiful truths. I'm not even finished with it yet because it's so much to take in. This is the type of book you slowly absorb over a year. And yet it's simple at the same time, if that makes sense.
Over and over, Pope Francis reminds us to go back to the Gospel message-- the transforming truth the Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose from the grave for us-- and to allow such good news to cultivate deep joy within us. That is the foundation for evangelization. If we forget the Gospel message and how it changes our lives, we will evangelize without joy. And Jesus wants us to have joy (John 15:11)! As St. Teresa of Avila said, "a sad saint is a sad sort of saint." Yes, following Christ can lead us to the cross and even persecution for the faith. But at the heart of following Christ is deep joy that nothing else can give and nothing else can take away. It's the joy and fulfillment our hearts desire-- and it's only found in the Gospel.
Pope Francis has certainly gotten a lot of publicity and his words have caused much conversation. Part of why I love this book is that you read his words-- not the media's interpretation of them. He is not the 'rebel, liberal pope' he's sometimes made out to be, but rather a joyful, solid follower of Christ calling us out of our comfort zones to evangelize to the world, care for our brothers and sisters, build up the Church by faithfulness and education, and ultimately to find the Lord of our lives in prayer and in our daily lives.
[Thank you to Blogging for Books for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]