05/16/2013, 00.00
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Pope: Church does not need lukewarm, "backseat" Christians

In this morning's Mass, Francis spoke about Saint Paul's apostolic zeal. "Paul is a nuisance. He is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because he bears witness to Jesus Christ". We can ask the Holy Spirit "to give us all this apostolic fervour to be nuisance in the Church's comfort zones and the grace to reach the outer edges of existence."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Church does not need "backseat Christians ", for whom everything is fine. It needs believers like Saint Paul, full in apostolic fervour, people who desire to proclaim Jesus, and are willing to be "a nuisance" and unsettle those who find "refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures within the Church." Pope Francis devoted his reflections to the apostolic zeal of the Apostle to the Nations during this morning's Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, which was co-celebrated by Card Peter Turkson and Mgr Mario Toso, president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

Paul's entire life, the pontiff said in a report on Vatican Radio, was a "battle royal", a "life full of new trials," spent "from one persecution to the next." His fate was "one of many crosses. Yet, he kept on going, looking forward towards the Lord, relentless."

"Paul is a nuisance. He is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because bearing witness to Jesus Christ and proclaiming Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable, threatens our comfort zones-even Christian comfort zones, right? It irritates us. The Lord always wants us to move forward, forward, forward . . .  not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures, right? . . . And Paul, in preaching the Lord, was a nuisance. But he had deep within himself that most Christian of attitudes: apostolic zeal. He had this apostolic zeal; he was a man who brooked no compromises. No! The truth: forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward!"

Saint Paul, Pope Francis noted, was a "fiery" individual, but this fire was not limited to his character, for the Lord got involved in this 'battle royal'. Indeed, the Pope went on to say, it was the Lord who drove him "onwards".

"Where does this apostolic zeal come from? It comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Paul found Jesus Christ, encountered Jesus Christ, not through intellectual, scientific insight -which is important because it helps us-but through a primeval insight, one straight from the heart, through a personal encounter."

This is what drove Paul forward "to proclaim Jesus, always" And "always in trouble he was, not in trouble for troubles' sake, but for Jesus, proclaiming Jesus of which "this is the consequence".

One's apostolic zeal, the Pope stressed, can only be understood "in an atmosphere of love." The apostolic zeal, he added, implies "an element of madness, of spiritual madness that is, healthy madness". Paul "had this healthy madness."

The Pope also urged all those present to ask the Holy Spirit to develop within each of us the same apostolic zeal, which should not be the preserve of missionaries. In fact, even in the Church, he warned, there are "lukewarm Christians" who "do not feel like moving forward".

"There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and Apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervour and give us the grace to be a nuisance when things are too quiet in the Church, and the grace to go out to the edges of existence. The Church has so much need of this! Not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but also here in the cities, in our cities, which need to hear Jesus Christ proclaimed. So let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace of apostolic zeal, let's be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we are nuisance to people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord said to Paul: 'Have courage!'"


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