Today, I continue my reflections upon Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. Find daily reflections on this teaching by a variety of Catholic authors and speakers at KellyWahlquist.com.
December 4: “The Church’s Missionary Transformation” (Paragraphs 19-24)
Having read yesterday in EG about the pervasive scope and nature of the New Evangelization, today’s reflection opens with a reminder that evangelization isn’t optional for us if we are to call ourselves disciples of Christ. “Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus,” opens Pope Francis. He reminds us that Jesus sent his disciples out to preach the Gospel “every time and in every place“.
For us, this mandate continues, spreading our faith in Christ in new and evolving ways, but with no less a sense of urgency. The first disciples may have traveled on foot and written with quills, while we share our faith while driving our minivans or on Facebook. But the reason for our mission is the same – we are a Church which “goes forth“:
In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.
Seriously, Pope Francis? You’re calling me to venture out of my comfort zone?
The answer is “Yes“. If we’re to call ourselves Church, then we are meant to share in the work of discipleship. Blessedly, in paragraph 21 of EG Pope Francis reminds us why we do what we do, underscoring the “missionary joy” that enlivens disciples.
This joy is a sign that the Gospel has been proclaimed and is bearing fruit. Yet the drive to go forth and give, to go out from ourselves, to keep pressing forward in our sowing of the good seed, remains ever present.
But how? In the face of such a crazy world, so many personal responsibilities and such spiritual confusion in our society, how can we even begin to scratch the surface of the calling?
The answer to this quandary lies in part in the final paragraphs (23 and 24) of today’s section of EG. We are reminded that “communion and mission are profoundly interconnected”. The Gospel is meant to be proclaimed to all, by all believers, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. We’re to concern ourselves with the endgame, the “fruit” of our mission — souls won for Jesus Christ.
Will this be pretty, comfortable and convenient?
In paragraph 24 we’re exhorted that “Evangelizers must take on the ‘smell of the sheep'”. As disciples, we must be ready to put our “whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ.” A tall order no doubt, and yet we are reminded once again to continually rejoice, to “celebrate every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization.”
Pause for a moment and take all that in: evangelize always, smelling like one of the sheep, and be joyful about it, recognizing the grace in each small victory of bringing another soul closer to Christ. Does that sound like something that just simply happens for us when it’s convenient, on our time schedule? Not exactly. Yet that, my friends, is our life’s greatest mission.
For many of us, the mission field is our homes, our workplaces, and our immediate circle of friends. In reading today’s portion of EG, I’m reminded that for my non-Catholic friends, I am the Church. I may be the only Catholic they ever encounter. When I share my faith in a manner which is bold, understanding, passionate, and — yes — filled with joy, I stand a much greater chance of being a light of Christ to those who matter most to me.
Today, let’s get busy taking on the “smell of the sheep”. And let’s do it with infectious joy.
Jesus, Good Shepherd, help me today and always to draw souls closer to you with the truth of your Word. May I follow your light, and in turn share my love for you with everyone I met, even when circumstances challenge me beyond my comfort zone. I love you Lord. Amen
Copyright 2013 Lisa M. Hendey