03/01/2014, 00.00
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Indian Jesuit: Re-reading the Bible to better understand Evangelii Gaudium

by Errol Fernandes sj
Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ is Principal of St. Xavier 's College, Mumbai and an expert in new media. The priest recalls that all Christians must "reveal Christ to those who have not had the privilege to encounter him". This includes the Indian faithful, who are a minority in their own country.

Mumbai (AsiaNews ) - "Pope Francis was clear: the responsibility to spread the message of the Gospel belongs to every believer. To do so, we must start from the Bible, which shows us the way to reach Christ". This is the reflection of Fr. Errol Fernandes SJ, a Jesuit expert in Scriptures and dean of St. Xavier 's College, Mumbai, on Evangelii Gaudium. The priest, who is also an expert in new media, analyzes the key challenges to Christians around posed by the Apostolic exhortation. Below we publish Fr. Errol Fernandes' reflection given to AsiaNews.

The biggest challenge

As Christians, We have to reveal Christ to those who have not had the privilege of encountering him yet. It is important to realise that numbers do no matter. Jesus began his proclamation of the kingdom with a small group and we have seen and are seeing and experiencing the effect of that proclamation even today. Pope Francis is making waves all over the world as an individual and as the leader of the Catholic Church and even the most cynical of persons is sitting up to listen. A line that is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi about proclamation of the Gospel is "Preach the Gospel, when necessary use words".

Pope Francis has also made clear in his recent Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" that the responsibility of spreading the message of the Gospel is the responsibility of every believer in Jesus.

It is very clear then that our proclamation must be more deed than word. The letter of James from which we are reading these days speaks about a faith which has to show itself in action. If it does not do that, it is dead (James 2:26)".

Being a Christian in India, being a minority

Second, we must be able to reinterpret Christ for the world and especially, for our country today. We cannot go on as we are doing now and let Christ be a God only of foreign lands. Christianity is the only religion in the world which believes in a personal God. This is a wonderful privilege, but in our practice can lead us to become restricted and parochial. This means that we might tend to pigeon-hole Jesus and God. We might be able to see and experience God in restricted and narrow ways and will not allow God to be God.

Even as we believe in Jesus as the revelation of God, we must always realise that Jesus is bigger that anything we can ever imagine. This realisation leads to the ability to find God in all things. Thus we are called to broaden our horizons and vision. The Christ that we must believe in must be the Cosmic Christ whose message of unconditional is relevant even today. This is the message that we must proclaim, this is the Christ we must proclaim.

Back to the Bible , back to Christ

The words that we speak, the actions that we perform, and the lives that we lead, as disciples of Jesus, have to be such that we make him present in the midst of a world which does not yet know him. The Bible is a pointer to the WAY which is Jesus. It is the word of God written by human beings inspired by the Spirit. It is conditioned by space and time, but God is not. Thus our interpretation of the Bible has to be one in which we are willing to listen to what God has to say, not what we want God to say. In many of his parables and discourses, Jesus explains who God is. God is Father and Mother, God is friend and lover, God is nourisher and nurturer, God is all this and more. If we read the Bible keeping in mind the images of God which Jesus proclaimed then we will realize that at every moment of our lives God walks with us. This means that not only what the challenges life may offer, we can face them with equanimity, courage and grace. If we as believers in Jesus dare to be that contrast community, the community which stands out, then others who see and experience us will want to know who we are and in whom we believe. They will ask about us "Who are you that you do these things and that you do them in this way?".

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed)


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See also
Andhra Pradesh, a study of Evangelii Gaudium for the Year of Consecrated Life
For Indian Priest, Evangelii Gaudium challenges the people of Mumbai
Bishop of Daejeon: Evangelii Gaudium, a compass for the Korean Church
Pope: "A missionary and pastoral conversion" for a Church open to changing its structures
Pope to end the Year of Faith with Apostolic Exhortation 'Evangelii gaudium'