I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 27
Yesterday, inspired by the great work of Martin Luther King, Jr., I wrote about articulating dreams. We all have dreams, but there is great power and energy in articulating them and giving words to our hopes.
Today, I wanted to share another dream. Pope Francis has a dream and he’s asking the Catholic Church to join him in pursuit of that dream.
As I’ve been reading the new apostolic exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, I’m struck by the a unique and unexpected approach to evangelization that this “Pope for the Poor” is promoting.
What he is talking about is a little different from what we are used to.
Look at any diocesan office structure or parish staff and you’ll notice something. There is the evangelization and catechesis office and then there is the smaller social justice office or offices.
What Pope Francis makes clear in this exhortation about evangelization and discipleship is that these two areas are not mutually exclusive.
We are all missionary disciples. If you see yourself as a disciple, you must see yourself as a missionary. If you see yourself as a missionary, you must see yourself as a disciple. In fact, we should all recognize that we are missionary disciples (EG, 120).
As disciples, we go out with joy to share our faith–the love we have recieved from Jesus Christ. As disciples, the love we have received has to be shared. We can’t keep it to ourselves and we can’t limit it only to the people in the pews.
A Self-Preservation Strategy
We’re in a rut and it’s scaring us. People aren’t coming to mass. With each new year there are fewer baptisms. The number of Catholic weddings are on a continual downturn as well.
It’s easy to get scared. It’s easy to turn inward as a result–to try to preserve what once was lost.
What I love about Pope Francis’s dream for a missionary option is that he provides a completely different approach.
Stop thinking inward and start looking outward.
Instead, Pope Francis suggests a different strategy:
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. (EG, 49)
The Go Strategy: Evangelization and Social Justice
Instead, let’s go out and evangelize.
- Let’s look for the pain and suffering int the world and help heal.
- Let’s proclaim the good news of Christ’s salvation–news everyone is seeking whether they know it or not.
- Let’s teach those who have received God’s love how to continually find joy in his salvation and be able to go out and share it with others.
When Joy Evaporates
I have to be honest, that this seems hard to do. It is easy to get depressed and even angry at the way things have changed in the Church. I can see why so many people would be concerned. But again, it causes us to look inward with anger rather than outward with joy.
When the joy fades, return to the Lord. Spend time in adoration. Spend time in the Word. Encounter and experience God’s love, which you won’t be able to keep to yourself.
“If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence.” (EG, 264)