Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself to be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one's own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord's Cross."
It is the day of "seminarians, novices, young people on a vocational journey" in the Year of Faith with thousands of people crowding St Peter's Basilica. On this occasion, Pope Francis was particularly attentive to those who "represent the Church's youth! [. . .] the spring of vocation, the season of discovery, assessment, formation [. . .] a very beautiful season, in which foundations are laid for the future." He had met them yesterday afternoon, and for them he celebrated Mass today.
Inspired by today's readings on the mission, the pope asked, "Where does mission originate? The answer is simple: it originates from a call, the Lord's call, and when he calls people, he does so with a view to sending them out. But how is the one sent out meant to live? What are the reference points of Christian mission?"
"Be mindful," he told the 50,000 people who had gathered in St Peter's Square for the Angelus, "that the purpose is not to socialise, spend time together. No! The purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! There is no time to waste in small talk. Do not wait for everyone's approval. We have to go ahead and proclaim. We bring to everyone the peace of Christ, and if people do not welcome it, we go forward. We bring healing to the sick because God wants to heal man from all evil. How many missionaries do this? The sow life, health, comfort in the peripheries of the world. "
"The first element" of the mission, he said during the Mass, is "the joy of consolation. The prophet Isaiah is addressing a people that has been through a dark period of exile, a very difficult trial. But now the time of consolation has come for Jerusalem; sadness and fear must give way to joy: 'Rejoice . . . be glad ... rejoice with her in joy,' says the prophet (66:10). It is a great invitation to joy. Why? For what reason? Because the Lord is going to pour out over the Holy City and its inhabitants a "torrent" of consolation, of maternal tenderness: 'You shall be carried upon her hip and dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you' (vv. 12-13). Every Christian, especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God's consolation, his tenderness towards all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others. This is important if our mission is to be fruitful: to feel God's consolation and to pass it on to others! Isaiah's invitation must resound in our hearts: 'Comfort, comfort my people' (40:1) and it must lead to mission. People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God's consolation to others!"
"The second reference point of mission is the Cross of Christ. Saint Paul, writing to the Galatians, said, 'Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ' (6:14). And he speaks of the "marks of Jesus", that is, the wounds of the crucified Lord, as a countersign, as the distinctive mark of his life as an Apostle of the Gospel. In his ministry, Paul experienced suffering, weakness and defeat, but also joy and consolation. This is the Paschal mystery of Jesus: the mystery of death and resurrection. And it was precisely by letting himself be conformed to the death of Jesus that Saint Paul became a sharer in his resurrection, in his victory. In the hour of darkness and trial, the dawn of light and salvation is already present and operative. The Paschal mystery is the beating heart of the Church's mission! And if we remain within this mystery, we are sheltered both from a worldly and triumphalist view of mission and from the discouragement that can result from trials and failures. The fruitfulness of the Gospel proclamation is measured neither by success nor by failure according to the criteria of human evaluation, but by becoming conformed to the logic of the Cross of Jesus, which is the logic of stepping outside oneself and spending oneself, the logic of love. It is the Cross, the Cross that is always present with Christ, which guarantees the fruitfulness of our mission. And it is from the Cross, the supreme act of mercy and love, that we are reborn as a 'new creation' (Gal 6:15)."
Yesterday, speaking to the novices, he said that today's culture of the provisional, of which we are all victims, does not help us "because in this day and age it is very difficult to make a definitive choice". He pointed out that when he was young it was easier because the culture of the time favoured definitive choices, be it in conjugal life, in consecrated life or in priestly life. But today, he said, "it is not easy to make a definitive choice. We are victims of this culture of the provisional", of appearance.
"It really hurts, I tell you, when I see a priest or a nun in the latest model car. That cannot be! That cannot be! I think that a car is necessary because we have a lot of work to do, going around, but buy one that is humbler! If you like the nice one, think about all the children who are starving to death. Just think about that!"
As third element, he focused on prayer. "In the Gospel we heard: 'Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, to send out labourers into his harvest' (Lk 10:2). The labourers for the harvest are not chosen through advertising campaigns or appeals for service and generosity, but they are 'chosen' and 'sen'" by God. For this, prayer is important. The Church, as Benedict XVI has often reiterated, is not ours, but God's; the field to be cultivated is his. The mission, then, is primarily about grace. And if the Apostle is born of prayer, he finds in prayer the light and strength for his action. Our mission ceases to bear fruit, indeed, it is extinguished the moment the link with its source, with the Lord, is interrupted."
"Evangelisation is done on one's knees", as one of you said to me the other day. Always be men and women of prayer! Without a constant relationship with God, the mission becomes a job. The risk of activism, of relying too much on structures, is an ever-present danger. If we look towards Jesus, we see that prior to any important decision or event he recollected himself in intense and prolonged prayer. Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and pressing duties. And the more the mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be the more closely united to Christ's heart, full of mercy and love. Herein lies the secret of the fruitfulness of a disciple of the Lord!"
"Jesus sends his followers out with no 'purse, no bag, no sandals' (Lk 10:4). The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one's own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord's Cross."
"We should not," the Holy Father said during the Angelus, "boast as if we were the main players. The Lord and his grace are. Our joy is only this: to be his disciples, his friends. May Our Lady help us be good workers of the Gospel".
He concluded saying that, "It's nice to be missionaries!" As he asked the young people present, "Do you have the courage to do good, to hear the call?", he gave his own answer: "Everyone can be a missionary" and no one should " be afraid of the joy of proclaiming the Gospel with joy and courage."