Pope Francis on Saturday urged Catholic clergy and consecrated religious to share the Gospel with young people boldly, “so that they may encounter Christ” and then form a better world.
“We are indeed here to praise the Lord, and we do so reaffirming our desire to be his instruments, so that not only some peoples may praise God, but all,” the Pope preached July 27 at Rio de Janeiro’s St. Sebastian Cathedral during a morning Mass for bishops, priests, seminarians and religious.
He encouraged them to “proclaim the Gospel to our young people” with the same freedom of Sts. Paul and Barnabas.
The Pope used the word “parrhesia,” a Greek word with a special meaning. “Parrhesia” means the “freedom of speech” for a necessary truth to be proclaimed even, and especially, when doing so comes with a risk to the speaker. By using the word “parrhesia,” Pope Francis was encouraging a determined boldness in sharing the Gospel.
Pope Francis then discussed the vocation of a consecrated religious person, focusing on how they have been called by God to proclaim the Gospel and to promote a “culture of encounter.”
He began by emphasizing that clergy and religious should always be aware of “our Divine vocation,” adding that “we often take (it) for granted in the midst of our many daily responsibilities.”
“This means returning to the source of our calling,” he said.
At the beginning of the consecrated vocation, the Pope reflected, there is a “Divine election” in which the person is called by God to “be with Jesus,” so as to say, with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Living in Christ marks “all that we are and all that we do,” the Pope assured them.
“Life in Christ,” he said, is “precisely what ensures the effectiveness of our apostolate, that our service is fruitful.”
Pope Francis repudiated an approach to Christian ministry from a worldly, secular or business-based point of view.
“It is not pastoral creativity or meetings or planning that ensure our fruitfulness, but our being faithful to Jesus, who says insistently: ‘Abide in me and I in you,’” he stressed.
The Pope encouraged the congregation to abide with Christ through contemplation, worship and “embracing him,” especially through “our faithfulness to a life of prayer and in our daily encounter with him, present in the Eucharist and in those most in need.”
Being with Christ is not isolating, Pope Francis said. Rather, it makes us more able to “encounter others.”
He quoted Blessed Mother Teresa, who said: “We must be very proud of our vocation because it gives us the opportunity to serve Christ in the poor. It is in the favelas, in the cantegriles, in the villas miseria that one must go to seek and to serve Christ.”
Pope Francis then urged the bishops and priests to help kindle within the heart of youth “the desire to be missionary disciples of Jesus.”
He recalled that when he was young it was his dream to be a missionary in “faraway Japan.”
“God, however, showed me that my missionary territory was much closer: my own country.”
The call to be a missionary disciple, he stressed, is the call of the Christian, the call of the baptized.
“We must also help (young people) to realize that we are called first to evangelize in our own homes and our places of study and work, to evangelize our family and friends,” he said.
He urged those in charge of forming the young to “spare no effort” so that they too will be able to go out and evangelize.
“We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel!”
Priests, and all Christians, must go out from their circles of comfort to seek and to save others, he emphasized.
“It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people!” the Pope said. “Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church.”
“They too are invited to the table of the Lord.”
The Pope then lamented that a culture of “exclusion, of rejection” is spreading. “There is no place for the elderly or for the unwanted child; there is no time for that poor person on the edge of the street.”
The Bishop of Rome again repudiated the tendency to let human relationships be governed by models from the secular or business worlds. He criticized the view that sees human relations as regulated by the “dogmas” of “efficiency and pragmatism.”
He encouraged bishops, priests, religious and seminarians to “have the courage to go against the tide.”
The Pope implored them not to reject God’s gift of “the one family of his children.”
He said that “solidarity and fraternity,” the “welcoming and encountering” of all people, are what make societies “truly human,” truly personal.
“Be servants of communion and of the culture of encounter! Permit me to say that we must be almost obsessive in this matter.”
He balanced his opening statement on bold, free speech with a warning against pride.
“We do not want to be presumptuous, imposing ‘our truths.’ What must guide us is the humble yet joyful certainty of those who have been found, touched and transformed by the Truth, who is Christ, ever to be proclaimed,” he said.
Pope Francis prayed that the Virgin Mary might be the example for consecrated persons called by God to proclaim the Gospel and to “promote with courage the culture of encounter.”
“May she be the Star that surely guides our steps to meet the Lord,” he concluded. “Amen.”