Pope John Paul II’s missionary prayer intention July 2004: “That in young Churches the laity may receive more attention and be led to greater effort in evangelisation”. Comment Prof. Andrea Riccardi, founder S. Egidio Community

Monday, 28 June 2004

Vatican (Fides Service) - Prayer is a powerful force in the Church who with humility asks her Lord to fill her with the gifts of the Spirit. At this time of the year after Pentecost it is right to pray for the whole People of God. In the Book of Numbers we read that when Joshua went to tell Moses that two ordinary men were prophesying asking him to stop them, Moses replied: “are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!” (11, 29). The gift of the Spirit calls all members of the People of God to be prophets. This was precisely what Moses’ dreamed of: “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!» This is also the impulse of the Spirit, which often we resist because of inertia of structures, little generosity on the part of Christians, jealous of one another, or fearing others. Since Pentecost, all Christians, laity, clergy, men and women religious are called by the impulse of the Spirit to live prophecy.
But what does prophesy mean? This expression of the Scripture is often misunderstood in present day mentality. Not only because prophecy is often thought to be foretelling the future but also for some being a prophet is exhibitionism, protagonism, trying to be original to impress others. This is not Christian prophecy. Although as Christians we are called to be a People of prophets, there is only one Prophet, the One of whom it was said: “it is not right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem”, the Prophet Jesus Christ. All of us are called to communicate His Gospel. For Christians being a prophet means communicating Jesus. A people of prophets is a people which communicates the Gospel. “O would that all were prophets!» if all of them through word and deed were to communicate the Gospel of Jesus!
But can we communicate the Gospel when we are still young, when we are at the beginning of our journey as Christians? Can young Churches be communicators or must the members of these communities first become mature? When Jeremiah was called by the Lord to be a prophet he replied: “Ah, Lord God, I know not how to speak I am too young”. And God said. “Say not "I am too young" To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer. 1, 6-8). These are words to meditate after Pentecost. Laity, young and adults, Charismatic Movements, young Churches have much to say to the world: they have much to communicate in the name of the Lord!
The world needs to hear the prophecy of the Gospel. Countries with great contradictions like many in Africa, countries with situations of war have this need. Societies experiencing recent rapid economic development which threatens their traditional values have this need. The whole world needs the Gospel! We should hide it because of our fear, our institutions, and our routine. The young Churches in particular are called to this marvellous task, often in societies in formation, worlds marked by violence, among young people expecting hope. Our young Churches have a great responsibility.
These young Churches need to listen with docility to what the Spirit is saying through the cries and needs of their people: very often, even perhaps unconsciously, they are asking for the Gospel. How can these needs be met? It is said: priests are scarce; few people are formed and prepared, structures are scarce... I think that the young Churches possess great human and spiritual energies: many have wonderful laity able to communicate the Gospel in situations where priests cannot enter. The Church must have confidence in the laity as Pope John Paul II has told us on many occasions. I recall especially the Pope’s Message on the importance of lay Movements in the Church issued for Pentecost 1998. Movements often bring enthusiasm for the Gospel. It is above all confidence in the laity, which forms them for this responsibility!
Communication of the Gospel all over the world needs the laity: “would that all were prophets!» This is why, since Pentecost, we realise that the young Churches do not need to grow old; they should stay young, listening to the laity, valorising the laity in evangelisation and in the life of the Church. This is not a question of a claim: more space for the laity and less for the clergy and the religious! Each one is needed with his or her own charism and ministry! But woe to those who out of short-sightedness or habit, prefer a small community rather than involve the laity! Pentecost calls everyone to be witnesses of the Gospel in a spirit of communion and collaboration because it is the Lord who sends his workers into his vineyard. The building under construction is huge: the architect needs carpenters, bricklayers, blacksmiths to build the House of the Lord which is the House for all peoples. (Andrea Riccardi) (Agenzia Fides 28/6/2004; Righe: 53 - Parole 790)