He begins with the importance of consistently living as followers of Christ:
Faith is a gift of God, but it is important that we Christians show that we live the faith in a concrete
|image by Andrew Brown, www.theguardian.com|
Consistent witness is our best "credential," our most credible invitation to those in greatest need of Christ's mercy. Here he mentions faith and charity, joy and suffering, as the essential marks of that invitation. We can't follow Christ "part-time." Our faith is obviously not real faith if it doesn't inform every aspect of our lives; our charity is just do-good-ism if it's not at the root of everything we do; and our joy isn't worth sharing if it disappears when our cross gets too heavy. Other people clearly see this, if that's the face we present to them. The reverse is also true: real faith, unvarying charity, true joy even in suffering, are seen to be very valuable when we hold them as such. These are our treasures, the real gifts we have from Christ. We have to act, then, in the same manner, holding other things to be less valuable:
As children of the Church we must continue on the path of Vatican Council II, stripping ourselves of useless and harmful things, of false worldly securities which weigh down the Church and damage her true face. There is need of Christians who render the mercy of God visible to the men of today, His tenderness for every creature. We all know that the crisis of contemporary humanity is not superficial but profound. Because of this the New Evangelization -- while calling to have the courage to go against the current, to be converted from idols to the only true God --, cannot but use the language of mercy...
|AP photo, Domenico Stinellis, www.cbsnews.com|
Many people think: “the Church’s idea of man is too lofty for me, the ideal of life which she proposes is beyond my abilities, the goal she sets is unattainable, beyond my reach. Nonetheless – they continue – I cannot live without having at least something, even a poor imitation... The great sense of abandonment and solitude, of not even belonging to oneself, which often results from this situation, is too painful to hide. Today, we need a Church capable of walking at people’s side, of doing more than simply listening to them; a Church which accompanies them on their journey; a Church able to make sense of the “night” contained in the flight of so many of our brothers and sisters from Jerusalem; a Church which realizes that the reasons why people leave also contain reasons why they can eventually return. But we need to know how to interpret, with courage, the larger picture. I would like all of us to ask ourselves today: are we still a Church capable of warming hearts? A Church capable of leading people back to Jerusalem? Of bringing them home? Jerusalem is where our roots are: Scripture, catechesis, sacraments, community, friendship with the Lord, Mary and the apostles…
So I think what he means by "useless and harmful things" are the things that intrude in the life of the Church, separating faith from everyday life, things that are in some sense opposed to these two little lists; things that obscure rather than simplify the life of faith, or that render the mystery of Christ banal, or that marginalize or contradict the Scriptures and the sacraments, and so on. That list is obviously very long, and indeed, very well known in the life of the Church, since every age has its particular challenges to the purity of the Good News the Church is preaching. And it is always a struggle, in the human sense, to fight against those intrusions for the pure teaching of Christ.
The second point in yesterday's address moves directly from witness to evangelization:
The New Evangelization is a renewed movement towards him who has lost the faith and the profound meaning of life. This dynamism is part of the great mission of Christ to bring life to the world, the Father’s love to humanity.
Again, this is a clear recognition of the need of people for Christ's great mercy, and therefore the urgency Christians ought to have to offer Christ's life, the Father's love, to the darkened world. This mission is Christ's, and therefore ours in the Church. It's ours both because Every baptized person is a “cristoforo,” a bearer of Christ, and because No one is excluded from the hope of life, from the love of God. The Church is sent to reawaken this hope everywhere.
He goes on to say that this urgent evangelizing mission has a distinct shape or character, which is (to use a different vocabulary than this address, but to which he also refers) the "apostolic" and "ecclesial" one:
In the Church all this, however, is not left to chance or improvisation. It calls for a common commitment to a pastoral plan that recalls the essential and that is “well centered on the essential, namely on Jesus Christ." It is no use to be scattered in so many secondary or superfluous things, but to be concentrated on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with his mercy, with his love, and to love brothers as He loved us. A project animated by the creativity and imagination of the Holy Spirit, who drives us also to follow new ways, with courage and without becoming fossilized!
|by David Willey, www.bbc.co.uk|
done (not equally well at every time and place, to be sure):
His third point turns to that necessary separating of Truth from worldly accretions:
We can't offer people a pure and vibrant faith unless we ourselves are well catechized. It's too easy, especially in this world described as "post-Christian," unwittingly to mix faith with not-faith, with moral platitudes (which may perhaps be true in themselves, but which don't lead to Christ), or with political agenda or social activism (which, again, may be either true or false, good or harmful, but which cannot lead to Christ).
I'm really impressed with the clarity and consistency of Pope Francis's direction, in this address. He sounds "papal," even as he gives his words a personal urgency, an authenticity from his own pastoral zeal and experience. What he seems to be urging us to consider is that we are not nearly radically enough "for the Gospel." We make so many little compromises with the world. Many are necessary, most are not bad or evil in any sense. But all of them dull the brightness of the pure Gospel. They cause us, for example, to think twice before speaking out against some moral evil or injustice, or to make subtle shifts in our priorities among transient goods that obscure in some degree our commitment to spiritual and heavenly goods. These little compromises "domesticate" Christ. They make Him fit into our existing lives, rather than making us change our lives to fit into His. That's where we need a visibly greater degree of "purity," like St. John the Baptist - of prophetic stance outside the world and its systems of compromises to preserve whatever goods are valued at the time, and radical commitment to the only lasting good, salvation in Christ.