If not, you are substantially missing out on an important soul-stirring experience.
I heard it was great but still kept putting it off, thinking it might be too difficult to read or that reading it might make me want to change the way I live my life.
When I finally broke down and read it I discovered I was wrong about the first and right about the second. Compared to works by Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI , Pope Francis’s first exhortation is fairly easy to read but it definitely makes you want to change your life – which is the whole point of an exhortation, right?
If I had to summarize this great work I would describe this exhortation as a call – no, more like an invitation – for each and everyone to be joyful missionaries and spirit-filled evangelizers of Christ’s Gospel.
But what does that mean and how exactly does Pope Francis propose we do this? Simply put, “To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world, Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.”
Like the words often credited to his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis implores us to “preach the Gospel always; use words when necessary.”
This is something we have heard often but how much do we actually take it to heart and apply it in our lives. In his exhortation, Pope Francis rightly calls out the problems with a self-righteous approach to evangelization, which happens when we cling to a rigid following of the “rules” and are constantly looking for what people are doing wrong so we can point out their errors.
When this happens, he says, “instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others.”
You see, evangelization is not the same as proselytization – “inducing someone to convert to one’s faith.” When we try and force others to listen to and agree with our point of view or beliefs that isn’t authentic evangelization, it becomes more about proving our own points and being right rather than simply sharing the love and peace of Christ with others.
Sure, there is a time for talking about doctrines and dogmas but that only comes after a conversion of heart and openness of the mind. And so again Pope Francis reminds us that our first motives and intentions must be for “…the greater glory of the Father who loves us.”
Further, he explains, “We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything. This is why we evangelize.”
And this is why he truly believes each of us is called to be evangelizing missionaries. “A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise.”
How can you be a “spirit-filled evangelizer” in your life?
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Copyright 2014, Erika Marie