12th July 2020

Pope Francis View on Mission 3/9

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In a book-length interview with Gianni Valente from Fides News Agency Pope Francis speaks about what has captured his heart: the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world. “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”. 

Over the coming days a number of short ‘digestible’ extracts will feature in this blog.

In a meeting with the Pontifical Missionary Societies, you suggested that they read the Acts of the Apostles, as a habitual text to pray over. Why is it a narrative of the beginnings, rather than a “modern” strategic missionary manual?

The protagonist of the Acts of the Apostles is not the apostles. The protagonist is the Holy Spirit. The apostles are the first to recognize Him and testify to Him. When they communicate the decisions established by the Council of Jerusalem to the community in Antioch, they write: “We have decided, the Holy Spirit and us”. They realistically acknowledge that it was the Lord who daily added to their number “those who were saved”, rather than the persuasive efforts of men.

And is it the same today as it was back then? Has nothing changed?

The experience of the apostles is like a paradigm that is always valid. Just think of how things happen spontaneously in the Acts of the Apostles, without coercion. It is a human story, in which the disciples always arrive afterwards, they always arrive after the Holy Spirit has already acted. He prepares and works on hearts. He upsets their plans. It is he who accompanies them, guides them and comforts them in all the circumstances they find themselves living. When problems and persecutions come, the Holy Spirit works there too in an even more surprising way with His comfort, His consolations, as happens after the first martyrdom, that of Saint Stephen.

What happens next?

A time of persecution begins, and many disciples flee Jerusalem, going to Judea and Samaria. And there, while they are dispersed and fugitive, they begin to evangelize, though they are alone and without the Apostles who remained in Jerusalem. They are baptized and the Holy Spirit gives them apostolic courage. There we see for the first time that baptism is enough to become evangelizers. That’s what mission is. Mission is His work. There’s no point in getting agitated. There’s no need for us to get organized, no need to scream, no need for gimmicks or stratagems. All we need to do is ask to be able to repeat the experience today that makes us say, “We have decided, the Holy Spirit and us”.

And without this experience, what do the calls for missionary mobilization mean?

Without the Spirit, wanting to do mission becomes something else. It becomes, I would say, a plan to conquer, the pretext that we are conquering something. A religious, or perhaps an ideological conquest, perhaps carried out even with good intentions. But it’s another thing.

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