Rome (Agenzia Fides) – To be apostles means "being sent for a mission". A task that is not assumed through the dynamics of self-persuasion and self-promotion, but only by virtue of "God's free call", received as "a free gift" to which it is necessary to "respond freely". This is how Pope Francis recalled the essential features and the "springs" of the apostolic mission of the Church, recalling that this call concerns both those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders, consecrated persons, Thus Pope Francis and each lay faithful, man or woman". He did so during today's General Audience, Wednesday, March 15, continuing the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the passion for evangelizing and apostolic zeal, with a speech interspersed with quotations from the Gospel, from the Letters of Saint Paul and above all from various Documents of the Second Vatican Council: the dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, the Decrees Ad Gentes and Apostolicam Actuositatem.
Being apostles - the Pope remarked - concerns every Christian, and has as an "exemplary and foundational" event that "in which the Risen Christ sends his apostles into the world, transmitting to them the power that he himself received from the Father and giving them his Spirit".
Saint Paul, too, in his Letter to the Galatians, insists that he is "an apostle not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead".
In the exercise of the mission of apostle - continued the Bishop of Rome - "everything depends on a gratuitous call from God; God also chooses us for services that at times seem to exceed our capacities or do not correspond to our expectations". And "the call received as a gratuitous gift must be answered gratuitously".
Continuing his catechesis, and quoting the texts of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis insisted on the fact that the vocation to apostolic work is a calling that is common, "common dignity [is shared] as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection; possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity" (LG, 32). The laity likewise "share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world". And the Council understood the collaboration between the laity and the ecclesiastical hierarchy not as a mere strategic adaptation to new situations", but as a dynamism linked to the very nature of the Church: "the diversity of charisms and ministries" continued the Pontiff "must not give rise, within the ecclesial body, to privileged categories; nor can it be used as a pretext for forms of inequality that cannot find space in Christ and in the Church". In fact - the Successor of Peter insisted, again quoting Lumen Gentium - although "by the will of Christ some are in an important position, perhaps, doctors, pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ". Who - continued the Pope - "has more dignity in the Church: the bishop, the priest? No, we are all Christians in the service of others. Who is more important in the Church: the religious sister or the common person, baptized, not baptized, the child, the bishop…? They are all equal, we are equal and one of the parties themself to be more important than the others, turning up their nose, it is a mistake. That is not the vocation of Jesus. The vocation that Jesus gives, to everyone, but also to those who seem to be in the highest places, is service, serving others, humbling oneself. If you find a person who in the Church has a higher vocation and you see he is vain, say, “Poor soul”, pray for him, because he has not understood what the vocation of God is. The vocation of God is adoration of the Father, love for the community, and service. This is what being apostles is, this is the witness of apostles" (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 15/3/2023)