Rome, Tuesday, July 16, 2013
“The missionary message and the witness of the missionaries cannot be other than a joyful proposal, a message of enthusiasm and a word of courage”, writes P. Enrique Sánchez G., Superior General, in a letter to the MCCJ Bulletin, four months since Pope Francis was elected. We publish below the letter. In the Picture: Fr. Jorge Carlos Naranjo Alcaide, in Sudan.
Fr. Elías Arroyo Román,
Just four months have passed since Pope Francis was elected bishop of the diocese of Rome, shepherd and guide of the whole Church. Those of us who now happen to be living in Rome have noticed that, during this period, however short, a new atmosphere has been created as well as a reawakening of the great desires of the heart in many Christians who wish to live out the riches of the Gospel.
There is no doubt that Pope Francis, by the way he lives, speaks and approaches people, by the way he draws attention to certain situations and urgent problems of our world, is moving hearts and is somehow challenging the lifestyle and the behaviour of the Christians of our time, inviting them to give the reason for their own faith in the Lord.
With his words and gestures, Pope Francis is outlining the features of the sort of Christian needed in our time and takes every opportunity to remind us that we cannot go on saying we believe in Jesus Christ while we conform our lives to the models presented to us by the world, with its own logic and interests.
On several occasions we have heard him speak out strongly using such words as coherence, radicality, trust, tenderness, love, the option for the poor ... a vocabulary that ought to be very familiar to us missionaries, more as a daily experience than simply a manner of speaking. Pope Francis has repeated in various ways and in different tones of voice that he wants a Church that is missionary, at the service of the most abandoned and far from power struggles or career-seeking. He wants a Church where the exercise of mercy and compassion, of goodness and love, is the foundation of the house where all human beings may find room to truly live, to be fulfilled, to enjoy communion and authentic brotherhood.
He wants a Church that is poor, able to show that its only real treasure is the Lord, his Word, of whose life she is the repository and custodian, the life of God that is offered to us every day in the celebration of the Eucharist, the sacraments and the gift of our brothers and sisters who become sacraments for us of the presence of God in our midst.
Pope Francis is frequently reminding us that in the Church of today we must be careful not to fall into the trap of role-playing, of becoming the reference point, of thinking that everything depends on us and that it is all a question of choosing the right strategy. No, the only leader, as he told us many times, is the Lord who continues to walk with us, who does not abandon us or forget our needs. Also in this matter, the Holy Father reminds us that the main actor in the history of the mission of the Church is the Holy Spirit.
While reminding us of this, he has stated just as firmly that we Christians must walk with head held high, without triumphalism, secure and confident that we are in safe hands. We have no right to present a disfigured image of the Lord with our sadness, our uncertainties or pessimistic views of the future. Today, more than ever, the Christian is called to witness with courage, joy and confidence, aware that his Lord is at work, today as always.
The missionary message and the witness of the missionaries cannot be other than a joyful proposal, a message of enthusiasm and a word of courage.
All of this is awakening new hope that becomes joy and the desire to participate in the proposal made by Pope Francis to live out our being Christians in our everyday life and in the small details of life, in the simple gestures that allow us to recognise that we all need one another and that we cannot continue to invest our energy in the sort of society where everyone is convinced they must think of themselves, always and only of themselves.
The enthusiasm stirred up by the Pope and shown by the multitude of people who want to meet him, see him and listen to him, speaks of the desire for God hidden in the hearts of our contemporaries, and shows that it is not true that humanity in our time has lost interest in God. Today, more than ever, we are becoming aware how deep, in all people, is the issue of God, faith and Gospel. It also indicates how urgent the mission is and how important it is that Christians, all of them, assume their responsibility in proclaiming the Gospel as a first requirement of their baptism. We needed Pope Francis, who speaks to us with simplicity, who is interested in the situations of the people of our time and goes out to meet them, to remind us that the Gospel is not just a theory or a doctrine or something amounting only to an ideology.
The Gospel is a person with whom we are invited to establish a strong and close relationship, as a condition for the authenticity of our lives and this person is none other than the Lord Jesus.
The question we are all surely asking ourselves is to know whether we shall be able to meet the challenge and accept to live out our being Christian today, aware that it is not simply a question of affirming our belonging to a group, a community or a Church. Will we be able to live out our faith in Jesus Christ by announcing him with our lives to all who seek him today? I can think of no better way of living our missionary vocation and it seems to me that there is no other way by which we can be recognised as authentic Christians of our time.
The atmosphere we are breathing here in Rome, and which seems to us to be going beyond its walls, will certainly bear extraordinary fruit and will be a great blessing if it succeeds in transforming itself into a new opportunity to become aware of the riches of life we bear within ourselves, the life of God who lives in those who are willing to open the doors of their hearts. This is our best wish of all.
Fr. Enrique Sánchez G., mccj
“But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses
both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
(Acts of the Apostles 1.8)