Pope Francis stressed this during his Wednesday General Audience in the Vatican, as he continued his series of catechesis on apostolic zeal, this week considering the ecclesial aspect of evangelization.
The proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father stressed, is not the task of isolated individuals, but a communal service to the Church’s apostolic faith, which “must be passed down in its integrity to every generation.”
Zeal for spreading the Gospel, he said, is inseparable from this ecclesial dimension, which, he explained, protects the Christian message from distortion and from accommodating to worldly interests and ways of thinking.
The Vatican II Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity, the Pope recalled, presents all evangelization as having its source God Our Father’s immense love, which was poured out on the world through the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and prolonged in the Church’s mission of proclaiming this saving love to all the ends of the earth.
As “missionary disciples,” Pope Francis insisted, all the baptized are called to imitate the self-sacrificing love of Christ.
He said the faithful are called to bear creative and convincing witness to the truth of His word and its reconciling power, not only for individuals, but for the life of our entire human family.
“The apostolic zeal of each missionary disciple,” the Pope stressed, is so important “because in the pilgrim and evangelising People of God there are no active and passive subjects.”
Returning to his words in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium on proclaiming the Gospel in today’s world, the Pope reassured, “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.”
Quoting the decree Ad Gentes on the Church’s mission, the Pope reiterated that this task “is one and the same everywhere and in every condition, even though it may be carried out differently according to circumstances.”
New ways of witnessing
This invites us, the Pope warned, not to become ‘fossilised’ or stoic.
The missionary zeal of the believer, he said, expresses itself as a creative search for new ways of proclaiming and witnessing, new ways of encountering the wounded humanity that Christ took on, of serving the Gospel and humanity.
Going back to the Father’s love and the missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, he said, does not close us in spaces of static personal tranquillity.
On the contrary, the Pope said, they “lead us to recognise the gratuitousness of the gift of the fullness of life to which we are called, a gift for which we praise and thank God.”
Pope Francis concluded by urging faithful to live ever more fully what they have received and to share it with others.