Going Out … Teach!

Understanding Francis’ Vision of Evangelization

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Pope Francis’ speech to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization helped me with my Greek grammar.

When I was a student at the Gregorian University in Rome, I would often make a visit to the first-floor chapel on my way out. It has a newfangled tabernacle, looking rather like a cubist globe. I confess, as a ’70s-’80s kid, I thought it looked a lot like the Death Star. On the wall next to it were the Greek words “πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε.»

The words are from Matthew 28:19, and are often translated as “Go and teach.” But the first of the pair is not a command, but a participle. Literally, it would be rendered “going out, teach.” (For the Greek grammarians out there: Yes, it is even more nuanced than that, given the verb tenses. Yes, the second verb does really mean “make disciples.”)

Latin, which has fewer participles than Greek, makes both of the words commands, and many translations have followed the Vulgate. I am not saying that St. Jerome misled us, but that the original is richer. St. Jerome would be the first to agree.

What the original does show is that the first word describes a way in which the teaching should be done. We should be making disciples by going out. The going out is part and parcel of the disciple-making.

How fitting for a chapel at a university that forms many bishops, priests and teachers of the Faith from hundreds of nations all over the globe. It is as if it were saying: “On your way out, in and through your very going out, make all whom you meet followers, disciples of what you learned in these classrooms and especially kneeling before this tabernacle, which represents the broken world you must led to Christ.”

Pope Francis’ October 14 speech to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, a dicastery of the Roman Curia created by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, made me think of those chapel visits. The three points of his talk were the primacy of witness, the urgency of going out to encounter others, and a pastoral project centered of what is essential.

What is essential is Jesus Christ. But our lives have to reflect Him. It is to Him that we must bear witness, and we have to go out to do so.

Pope Francis said: “New evangelization means to reawaken the life of faith in the hearts and minds of our contemporaries. Faith is a gift of God, but it is important that we Christians show how to live faith in a concrete way, through love, concord, joy, suffering, for this provokes questions, as it did at the beginning of the Church: Why do they live this way? What urges them on? They are questions which carry us to the heart of evangelization which is to bear witness to faith and charity.”

And if we are to bear witness, to show it, to carry it, we can’t sit around and wait for people to come to us. We have to teach in an outgoing way.

Fr. James Schall, SJ, has written recently about our Holy Father’s missionary spirit. You can understand an awful lot about Pope Francis and his vision for the Church if you read and re-read this next quote from his Monday address:

“The new evangelization is a renewed movement towards those who have lost faith and the deep meaning of life. This dynamism is part of the great mission of Christ to bring life to the world, the love of the Father to humanity. The Son of God ‘went out’ from his divine condition and came to encounter us. The Church is inside this great movement, every Christian is called to go out and encounter others, to dialogue with those who don’t think like we do, with those that have other beliefs, or who have no faith at all. To encounter everyone, because we all have in common that we were created in God’s image and likeness.”

This is what the Holy Father is asking of us. This is what Christ is asking of us every time we are renewed by his Word and the Eucharist at Mass.  Think of it every time you walk out of a church: Going out, teach…

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Reprinted with permission from the Gregorian Institute at Benedictine College. Dr. Mulholland can be reached at emulholland@benedictine.edu

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Edward Mulholland

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