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Order of Malta Australia


An Easter message


A Call For Revolutionary Change

In November 2013 Pope Francis published an Apostolic Exhortation in English entitled The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium). A group of Order of Malta members recently finished a retreat using it as a text,with commentary/reflections by Gerald O’Collins SJ. It is an electrifying text, as welcome to the laity as to clergy, written in colloquial English (in translation) and everyone is likely to recognise in it something encouraging and even inspiring for their particular work. It is a Christian Manifesto so it speaks as much to Evangelicals and Anglicans as to Catholics and it has good things to say for those of whatever age tangled up in divorce or moral or lifestyle distress.

In 1848 a slim pamphlet by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels became immensely influential under the title of The Communist Manifesto.

It helped to shape the world Communist movement which over the next 100 years captured the Russian and Chinese states and challenged the Christian view of life particularly among Western intelligentsia.

In November 2013 Pope Francis published a slim volume englished as The Joy of the Gospel

(Evangelii Gaudium) in 206 pages and 288 numbered paragraphs ending with a tribute and prayer to Mary, described as the Star of the new evangelisation.

Recently a group of lay people in Melbourne made a three-day retreat using the text of this booklet as the basis for prayer and reflection and were surprised and even startled at what they found.

The booklet is colloquial and personal in style, not avoiding jokes and light touches, not at all what might be expected in an encyclical.

The personality of the author shines through in every page and gives its own charm to the text.

Like the Communist Manifesto, which it in no other way resembles, this could be described as a call to promote revolutionary change but primarily in ourselves as Christians, in our attitude to the poor, in our participation in society and social institutions, in our individual and personal prayer life, in our attitude to Mary honoured as “the Star of Evangelisation”.

In presenting guidelines for a new phase of evangelisation, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality, Pope Francis treats seven themes:

– the reform of the Church in her missionary endeavour;

– the temptations faced by pastoral workers;

– the Church understood as the entire People of God which evangelises;

– the homily and its preparation;

– the inclusion of the poor in society;

– peace and dialogue within society;

– the spiritual motivations for mission.

However it is the exuberant style of his treatment of these important areas which conveys to readers a sense of exhilaration.

Some examples might be given (but the whole work is like this):

• “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others … If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good.” (no. 9)

• “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.” (no. 10)

• “An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just back from a funeral. Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing … and may the world of our time … be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ.” (no. 10)

• “The message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing, and at the same time most necessary.” (no. 35) “In this basic core what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.” (no. 36)

• “The Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others, and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others. Under no circumstances can this invitation be obscured. All of the virtues are at the service of this response of love.” (no. 39)


“Bruised Hurting and Dirty”
• “Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’ (Mk 6:37).” (no. 49)

• “Despite the tide of secularism which has swept our societies, in many countries – even those where Christians are a minority – the Catholic Church is considered a credible institution by public opinion, and trusted for her solidarity and concern for those in greatest need. Again and again, the Church has acted as a mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life, human and civil rights, and so forth. And how much good has been done by Catholic schools and universities around the world! This is a good thing. Yet, we find it difficult to make people see that when we raise other questions less palatable to public opinion, we are doing so out of fidelity to precisely the same convictions about human dignity and the common good.” (no. 65)

They help so many people …”

• “… The pain and shame we feel at the sins of some members of the Church, and at our own, must never make us forget how many Christians are giving their lives in love. They help so many people to be healed or to die in peace in makeshift hospitals. They are present to those enslaved by different addictions in the poorest places on earth. They devote themselves to the education of children and young people. They take care of the elderly who have been forgotten by everyone else. They look for ways to communicate values in hostile environments. They are dedicated in many other ways to showing an immense love for humanity inspired by the God who became man. I am grateful for the beautiful example given to me by so many Christians who joyfully sacrifice their lives and their time. This witness comforts and sustains me in my own effort to overcome selfishness and to give more fully of myself.” (no. 76)

• “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Christian triumph is always a cross, yet a cross which is at the same time a victorious banner borne with aggressive tenderness against the assaults of evil. The evil spirit of defeatism is brother to the temptation to separate, before its time, the wheat from the weeds; it is the fruit of an anxious and self-centred lack of trust.” (no. 85)


“A revolution of tenderness”

• “The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others.

The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.” (no. 88)

• “How many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities! In our neighbourhoods and in the workplace, how many wars are caused by envy and jealousy, even among Christians! Spiritual worldliness leads some Christians to war with other Christians who stand in the way of their quest for power, prestige, pleasure and economic security. Some are even no longer content to live as part of the greater Church community but stoke a spirit of exclusivity, creating an “inner circle”. Instead of belonging to the whole Church in all its rich variety, they belong to this or that group which thinks itself different or special.” (no. 98)

• “We know full well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything. This is why we evangelize. A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise … A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain, and in love, will not convince anybody.” (no. 266)

• “To be evangelizers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people’s lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy. Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people.” (no. 268)

• “How good it is for us to contemplate the closeness which he [Jesus] shows to everyone. If he speaks to someone, he looks into their eyes with deep love and concern … Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life.” (no. 269)

• “Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep. Arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world.” (no. 269)

Much more will increasingly be heard of this volume of the thoughts of Pope Francis whose appeal is not restricted to Catholics, nor to those in religious life.

It embodies a vision of an entire people drawn to the generous service of God and of others, more especially service to those in need, and united in solidarity with all who “arm in arm with others … are committed to building a new world”.


The Australian Association

The Australian Association, formed in 1974, currently has in excess of 300 members and aspirant members across every State and Territory of Australia. We also have ongoing and strong links with the Order’s National Associations throughout the Asia Pacific Region including in Singapore and the Philippines and with members of the Order in New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Thailand and Korea. The Order of Malta is committed to serving Our Lords the Poor and Sick worldwide and has done so for over 900 years. This website shares with you the history, mission and current activities of the Order of Malta in Australia, and provides links to the work of the Order world-wide.