AMERICA/COLOMBIA - Pope Francis: The Church becomes missionary only because it follows Jesus’ attractiveness

Friday, 8 September 2017 pope francis   missionary animation  

Radio Vaticana

Bogotà (Agenzia Fides) - What moves the church to mission "is not the enthusiasm that burns the generous heart of the missionary", it is rather the "companionship of Jesus in his Spirit. If we do not we set out with Him on our mission, we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause". This is how Pope Francis, during the apostolic journey he is carrying out in Colombia, found a way to propose again effective words on the "divine call" of the missionary discipleship, which concerns all the baptized. He held his speech on Thursday, September 7, addressed to the members of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) in Bogotà. While making explicit reference to the reality of Latin American Churches, the Bishop of Rome re-presented the traits that convey missionary dynamism, and distinguish it from all forms of ideological, cultural, or religious proselytism.

On mission to follow Christ
The missionary discipleship - as suggested by Pope Francis - is not born as an effort and performance of ecclesial structures, but is a "constant setting out with Jesus, in order to know how and where the Master lives. And when we set out with him, we come to know the will of the Father who is always waiting for us. Only a Church which is Bride, Mother and Servant, one that has renounced the claim to control what is not her own work but God’s, can remain with Jesus, even when the only place he can lay his head is the cross". This is why "what makes the mission last is not the generosity and enthusiasm that burn in the heart of the missionary, even though these are always necessary. It is rather the companionship of Jesus in his Spirit. If we do not we set out with Him on mission", insisted Pope Bergoglio, "we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause. If our reason for setting out is not Jesus, it becomes easy to grow discouraged by the fatigue of the journey, or the resistance we meet, by constantly changing scenarios or by the weariness brought on by subtle but persistent ploys of the “enemy”. It is not part of the mission to yield to discouragement, once our initial enthusiasm has faded and the time comes when touching the flesh of Christ becomes very hard".

The only thing necessary
This is why – suggested Peter's Successor - the possibility of regenerating forces for the mission are not in the methodologies put in place by the ecclesial apparatus, but rather in always returning to make experience of Christ's charity: "At the beginning of everything", recalled Pope Francis, "the renewed awareness born of an encounter with the living Christ requires that his disciples foster their relationship with him; otherwise, the face of the Lord is obscured, the mission is weakened, pastoral conversion falter". Therefore, "to pray and to foster our relationship with Him: these are the most essential and urgent activities to be carried out in our pastoral mission. When the disciples returned excited by the mission they had carried out, Jesus said to them: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place” (Mk 6:31). How greatly we need “to be alone with the Lord” in order to encounter anew the heart of the Church’s mission in Latin America at the present time". This constant dependence of missionary dynamism from the grace of Christ - the Pope repeated - suggests that it is meant to place the mission of Jesus at the heart of the Church, making it the criterion for measuring the effectiveness of her structures, the results of her labours, the fruitfulness of her ministers and the joy they awaken. For without joy, we attract no one".

The "concreteness" of the Church in a state of mission
The Pope stressed "the ever-present temptations of making the Gospel an ideology, ecclesial functionalism and clericalism", which reduce the Gospel to a programme at the service of a trendy gnosticism, a project of social improvement or the Church conceived as a comfortable bureaucracy", any more than she can be reduced to an "organization run according to modern business models by a clerical caste".
Among other things, Pope Francis also indicated the word "concretely" as a sign of a genuine missionary dynamism: "The Gospel" said the Bishop of Rome "is always concrete, never an exercise in fruitless speculation. We are well aware of the recurring temptation to get lost in the cavils of the 'doctors of the law', to wonder how far we can go without losing control over our own bailiwick or our petty portion of power". The Gospel - pointed out Pope Bergoglio speaks of Jesus who, proceeding from the Father, journeys through the fields and the towns of Galilee: "As Jesus walks, he encounters people. When he meets people, he draws near to them. When he draws near to them, he talks to them. When he talks to them, he touches them with his power. When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation. His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father. We must never stop reflecting on this. The Church has to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission. To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear. It is a matter of working by day in the fields, where God’s people, entrusted to your care, live their lives". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 8/9/2017)