05 June 2013

Be Not Afraid: Coming to Faith in a God who is already Waiting for us

Rarely are we privileged to hear such personal stories about a Pope's coming to or his vision of faith. Francis' experiences are seminal to his understanding of the way we are Church for one another and the way we come to faith ourselves. In some of the most effective catechesis I have ever heard or seen, Francis answers several questions which had been put to him. He speaks simply; he speaks profoundly; he speaks truth to power and to powerlessness, and he does all this from the heart.

Here we begin to see the key to what allows Francis to speak to the hearts of people within the Church and outside it as well. At bottom is an authentic and profound personal relationship with Jesus which leads to true witness. This is so significant for Francis that, following Paul's criticism to the Corinthians' tendency to follow Apollos or Paul, et al, rather than Jesus, in "paternal criticism" (a very gently and lovingly given paternal criticism!)  he asks the crowds to never again shout Francesco, but instead only Jesu! This missionary dynamic of letting God into one's heart and then going out to all stands at the heart of Francis' faith and the vision he has of Church.

One piece of this video which was repeated in a talk to the Italian Bishops is also significant in signaling the kinds of Church reform Francis sees as needed. Just as Israel was called by God to let go of the ritual and legal "fence" that separated her from the nations so that she might really become salt and light for the world in Christ, so Francis talks about being Church in a similar missionary key: [[A Church that does not go out, sooner or later gets sick in the vitiated atmosphere of her enclosure. It is true also that to a Church that goes out something can happen, as it can to any person who goes out to the street: to have an accident. Given this alternative, I wish to say to you frankly that I prefer a thousand times an injured Church than a sick Church. The typical illness of the shut-in Church is self-reference; to look at herself, to be bent over herself like the woman in the Gospel. It is a kind of narcissism that leads us to spiritual worldliness and to sophisticated clericalism, and then it impedes our experiencing “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”]] HERE is what we are each called to live. HERE is the "new evangelization" meant to mark each Christian's life. Please take time to listen to the whole of this video!