Throughout Lent, we’ll be posting weekly reflections taken from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) to assist us in preparing spiritually for Easter. These will be published in place of our weekly Dean’s message.
To ponder: The way our global economy has developed has consequences for people’s lives.
Pope Francis reflects on an economy of exclusion and inequality: Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. 
Question: How does the global economy impact on me and the people I know? Are there choices I could make to resist its negative effects?
To ponder: Our lifestyle affects others.
Pope Francis reflects on a lifestyle that excludes: Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us. 
Question: How conscious am I of those who produce the goods I consume? How does this awareness affect the choices I make?
To ponder: People can be oppressed by financial structures.
Pope Francis reflects on a new idolatry of money: One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols… man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.  While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few.  Money must serve, not rule!  T oday’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric.
Question: What part does money play in my life and in my decisions? How carefully do I think about what I choose to consume?
To ponder: The gospel is about relationships and community, but the bonds that unite us can be weakened by our culture.
Pope Francis reflects on a crisis in relationships: In the case of the family, the weakening of these bonds is particularly serious because the family is the fundamental cell of society, where we learn to live with others despite our differences and to belong to one another; it is also the place where parents pass on the faith to their children.  The individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favours a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds. Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. 
Question: How strong are the relationships in my life? What sort of pastoral activity in my parish is strengthening family and community life?