What a guy! I am currently reading with delight Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium). It is
a very easy read.
Our Holy Father is exhorting the members of the body of Christ, to evangelize. He is encouraging us to take to heart
Jesus words, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” MT 28: 19-20.
Pope Francis stated that a Church which “goes forth,” is a Church whose doors are open......“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because
it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
Pope Francis offers insight on what an evangelizing community looks like. The Holy Father is encouraging us to go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. He stated that an evangelizing community “has
an endless desire to show mercy....” He also stated that “it is hard to take that first step to begin to evangelize and become involved but we must try a little harder to begin.”
He explained an “evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people's daily lives. Evangelizers thus take on the 'smell of the sheep' and the sheep are willing to hear their voice.”
He went on to say that an “evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be....
He explained that “an evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting
among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear.”
These words about grumbling or overreacting really effected me. I sometimes grow impatient with others in my life when they “just don't get it”, what every
'it' is and I think they should have “gotten it” by now.
However, Pope Francis is really asking us to look to Jesus who is
all merciful and all patient with us weak humans. Jesus waits patiently to allow the word to take flesh and bear fruit. It reminds me of the scripture verse found in first book of Samuel chapter 16 verse 7- God said, “Not as man sees does God see,
because he (man) sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” Ouch! That is a convicting verse—cut right to my own heart sometimes filled with judgments and condemnations.
I also liked Pope Francis words when he said “Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral. Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm that delightful
and comforting joy of evangelizing”.
He wants the world of our time to “be enabled to receive the good news not from
evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious but from ministers of the Gospels whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.”
How do we live the joy of the Gospel? We can't fake joy. I believe it must come from
the Holy Spirit and a heart open to receiving the grace to repent, to forgive and to be forgiven. I believe it comes by praying and spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament to be refilled, refreshed and renewed.
The results from spending time before
Our Lord is an evangelizer filled with joy, merciful love and enthusiasm regardless of living in the midst of a somewhat darken world. If we attempt to evangelize others without being filled with the Holy Spirit, we become part of the problem in this darkened
world instead of part of the solution.
Thank you Pope Francis for your encouragement and living example. Let us begin to evangelize and the best place to begin to live our joy, hope and love is within our own families.