In his homily for the Feast of St George, Pope Francis said:
And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.
This identity that the Pope is talking about is what the evangelist and apostle recognised in himself when he would refer to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loves’ 5 times throughout the Gospel he wrote. St John refers to himself by the only thing that matters about him, the fact that Christ loves him, all else is secondary. Yet how is that only through belonging to the Church you can get this identity as Pope Francis rightly tells us. Again in Johns gospel he tells us that Christ said ‘I am the way the truth and the life’ Jn14:6 and later ‘I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you will have no life in you’ Jn6:53 Only when alive in Christ, having eaten and drunk of His flesh and blood, can a person truly have an identity. This is the christian identity, first professed by St John ‘I am he whom Jesus loves.’ It is only in the Church that you can receive God in such a way, and with a full recognition of how great the love of Christ in the Mass is, you would die for joy.
Due to this knowledge that ‘it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church’, Pope Francis in a meeting with seminarians and novices from around the globe gave a the tools to bring all people to Jesus that they may accept their redemption. He started by explaining how
Joy is born from the gratuitousness of an encounter! It is hearing someone say, but not necessarily with words: “You are important to me”. This is beautiful…. And it is these very words that God makes us understand. In calling you God says to you: “You are important to me, I love you, I am counting on you”.
‘This is beautiful’ indeed, God is ‘counting on you’ for ‘the plans I have in mind for you’ Jr29:11, and there is no more joyous thought. If you encounter Christ and repeat Christs prayer ‘let your will be done not mine’ Lk22:42 you will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Simply allowing God to work through you, or in the words of Blessed John Henry Newman ‘lead thou me on’
A journey that matures, that develops towards pastoral fatherhood, towards pastoral motherhood, and when a priest is not a father to his community, when a sister is not a mother to all those with whom she works, he or she becomes sad. This is the problem. For this reason I say to you: the root of sadness in pastoral life is precisely in the absence of fatherhood or motherhood that comes from living this consecration unsatisfactorily which on the contrary must lead us to fertility. It is impossible to imagine a priest or a sister who are not fertile: this is not Catholic! This is not Catholic! This is the beauty of consecration: it is joy, joy.
Pope Francis was here was talking about specifically about the consecrated life, be it in priesthood or religious, but when he tells us ‘this is not Catholic’ he means it for all vocations. He told us there that failing to form ourself such as to bring Christ to all whom we meet, particularly those intrusted to our care, and guide them to enter a deeper relationship with Christ, ‘is not Catholic!’ This is how to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’Mk12:30 to love your neighbour is to desire and help them achieve their best, namely going to heaven. Their going to heaven can only be achieved by you showing them the way, or as such ‘you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.’ but this is exactly what the Holy Father said, combined with practical advice on how to do so, only a little later in his audience with us
I would like to tell you: come out of yourselves to proclaim the Gospel, but to do this you must come out of yourselves to encounter Jesus. There are two ways out: one towards the encounter with Jesus, towards transcendence; the other towards others in order to proclaim Jesus….I would like a more missionary Church, one that is not so staid….. Do not learn from us, from us who are no longer very young; do not learn from us the sport to which we old men so often have recourse: the sport of complaining! Do not learn from us the cult of the “goddess lamentation”. She is a goddess that…. is always complaining…. But be positive, cultivate your spiritual life and, at the same time, go out, be capable of meeting people, especially those most despised and underprivileged. Do not be afraid of going out and swimming against the tide. Be both contemplatives and missionaries. Always keep Our Lady with you and please pray the Rosary…. Do not neglect it! Always keep Our Lady with you at home, as did the Apostle John. May she always accompany you and keep you. And also pray for me, because I too need prayers, because I am a poor sinner, but let us go ahead.
The holy father repeated the message of Christ ‘go therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you’ Mt28:19-20 the Pope then did this giving us direction on how to teach them, ‘always keep Our Lady with you’ without Our Lady we have no hope of converting the world but by praying the rosary always all the world shall come to ‘encounter Gods calling’ to paraphrase.
This giving of instruction by both word and example is what the Holy Father is often doing in his interviews with La Repulbilca in his dialogue with atheists. He finds ‘common ground’ so as to avoid alienating them and so to bring them to the personal encounter with Christ. In his Angelus homily the next day Pope Francis reminded all challenged all gathered their, including many of us who had listened to him in the audience hall, that ‘their [seminarians and novices] purpose is not to socialize, to spend time together, no, their purpose is to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and this is urgent! And it is still urgent today!’
‘THIS IS URGENT!’ we cannot be slow, lazy, or fearful with the proclamation, we must treat it with utmost urgency proclaim it too all people as Christ and the apostles did. The proclamation must be our first priority. We must allow the Holy Spirit to take us out to the world, to bring the world back to God. He then reminded everybody that ‘We should not boast as if we were the protagonists: there is only one protagonist, it is the Lord! The Lord’s grace is the protagonist! He is the one hero! And our joy is just this: to be his disciples, his friends. May Our Lady help us to be good agents of the Gospel.’ Again he talks of how important prayer particularly to Our Lady for as St Louis De Montfort says ‘it is thy [Mary] privilege to dispose of all the gifts of God’ so let us pray that the gifts of faith hope and love be given to all the world. Then all people can discover their fullest identity as ‘I am he who is Jesus loves.’ We must still remember it is only through Him that we have any merits. All I am was given me by Christ and so it is that all the good I do is worked by Him through me.
If Francis speaks so much on the ‘urgency of proclaiming the Kingdom of God’ why has he been reported as saying “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.” Quite simply because it is. There is a difference between leading people to a personal encounter with Christ and simply going and shouting ‘Jesus Jesus Jesus.’ Of course we must speak of Christ in context, that people may be given ideas of Him but how can we claim to show Christ to them if we cannot ‘listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.’ It is by knowledge of the world around us that we can allow people to see how it all points to Christ.