Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – In the prayer intention entrusted by the Pope to the apostolate of prayer for the month of February, we can note three important aspects.
The first aspect refers to the missionary identity of they Church. Famous are the words of Paul VI, who presented the Church as the 'evangelizer' par excellence, that she had been founded to evangelize. Paul VI describes this missionary dimension as "her vocation and deepest identity. A Church without missionary zeal is a Church that has lost her identity, that does not know who she is. John Paul II has reiterated: "For in the Church's history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith” (RM 1). This awareness of a mission must be reawakened and it is still yet to be taken to many regions of the earth.
A second aspect of the missionary intention is seen in the effort “to follow Christ faithfully.” Following Christ means living close to Him, living united to Him in prayer, in the Sacraments, and in charity. Following Christ means to listen and to assimilate His words, living according to His Gospel. The person who does not follow Him closely and does not try to live with Him and like Him will most likely not be a herald of Christ. This fidelity to Christ is expressed in fidelity to the teachings of His Church, to her Magisterium. "He who hears you, hears me." Living in fidelity to Christ means living according to Gospel values: obedience to the Father, detachment from earthly goods, and chastity, according to the specific vocation of each baptized person. The commitment of discipleship implies a continuous need for conversion and growth in identification with Christ. Genuine love for Christ always leads us to try to be more like Him every day, to love what He loves, to reject what He rejects. Only the person who is set on fire for love of Christ will be able to proclaim Him in a convincing manner.
The third aspect concerns the proclamation of the Gospel to all peoples. Jesus Christ is the one sent by the Father, the first "missionary". He has been sent among men, "that they may have life and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10) and "to give witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37). The truth that Christ bears witness to is God's love for mankind, and this is the Good News, the Gospel that Christ preaches and that the Church is called to continue to preach. "Go into all the world ...". The love of God is universal, all are called to know this love, to live as children of God and thus, reach their fullness as human beings. The Church should always feel compelled by the same love that led God to send His only Son, His Beloved Son, who "by dying gave life to the world."
We pray that the Church may feel strongly the weight of the responsibility entrusted her, before God and man. May we be faithful to the love of Christ, so as to be humble and courageous heralds of the Gospel. As Pope Benedict XVI has stated: "at stake is the eternal salvation of persons." May Mary, Mother of the Church, make us grow in faithfulness to Christ and in commitment to the mission. (Agenzia Fides 29/01/2010)