(Vatican News) At the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on the Christian proclamation of God’s nearness, and urges us to draw strength from our relationship with Jesus in order to preach the Gospel together in meekness.
Pope Francis continued his catechesis series on the passion of evangelizing—apostolic zeal—at the Wednesday General Audience.
He reflected on the “missionary discourse” which Jesus gave to His disciples in the Gospel of Matthew (10:7-16) soon after He called them.
Coming or going?
The Pope noted that Jesus called the 12 Apostles “so that they might be with Him and He might send them out to preach.”
He pointed to the dual action of “being with” and “going out” in Jesus’ call, saying Christian missionary activity begins with the encounter with Christ and moves outward.
“Bearing witness to Him means radiating Him. But, if we do not receive His light, we will be extinguished. If we do not attend Him, we will bear ourselves instead of Him, and it will all be in vain.”
He added that Jesus sends His disciples out soon after calling them, which shows that missionary experience is an integral part of Christian formation.
God’s freely-given love
Pope Francis went on to reflect on three aspects of the Christian proclamation: why, what, and how to proclaim.
Jesus, he said, lays out the “why” in a few succinct words: “Freely you have received, freely give.”
God’s freely given love fills us and we are naturally impelled to share that love with others, said the Pope.
Nearness of God
He noted that the “what” of our proclamation has to do with the nearness of the kingdom of heaven.
The most important aspect of preaching, said Pope Francis, is that “God is near”.
“It is easier to exhort people to love God than to allow ourselves to be loved by Him.”
The Pope said the Christian proclamation must give God the first place, while we allow ourselves to be molded by His love and action.
Meekness in preaching
Pope Francis then spoke at length about “how” to proclaim, which he noted formed the lengthier part of Jesus’ own missionary discourse.
“He tells us that the manner, the style is essential to bearing witness. Let’s listen to how He wants us to be: ‘I send you out as sheep among wolves.’”
Jesus, added the Pope, never asks us to face the wolves with counter arguments or well-prepared defenses of the faith.
Rather, Jesus tells His disciples to be “meek and innocent, willing to sacrifice”.
And He will in turn protect His lambs from the wolves, but only if they remain meek as lambs.
In conclusion, Pope Francis noted that Jesus says to go out on mission together without any material provisions or worldliness, trusting only in God’s Providence.
“The apostolic Church is completely missionary, and it finds its unity in the mission,” he said. “So: go forth, meek and good as lambs, without worldliness, together.”