In his daily Morning Mass, Pope Francis told the faithful present that poverty and praise of God “are the two key signs of an evangelical and missionary Church.” The Holy Father echoed that same words he said the day after his election to the papacy, warning that a rich Church can become an NGO (non-governmental organization).
The Pope reflected on the Gospel of the day, which recounted Christ’s exhortation to the Apostles on how to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ call to go proclaim the Gospel with neither gold nor silver, he said, is Christ’s call to proclaim his Word “with simplicity.” That simplicity, the Pope continued, “gives way to the power of the Word of God, because if the Apostles had not had confidence in the Word of God, they would probably have done something else.”
Meditating on Christ’s mandate to give freely what they had received freely, Pope Francis conveyed the importance of proclaiming the Gospel as a grace, while warning that “when we leave grace a little to one side in our proclamation, the Gospel is not effective.”
“Evangelical preaching flows from gratuitousness, from the wonder of the salvation that comes and that which I have freely received I must freely give,” the Holy Father said.
“This is what they were like at the beginning. St. Peter did not have a bank account, and when he had to pay taxes, the Lord sent him to the sea to catch fish and find the money in the fish, to pay. Philip, when he met Queen Candace’s finance minister, did not think, ‘Ah, good, lets set up an organization to support the Gospel …’ No! He did not strike a deal with him: he preached, baptized and left.”
The Holy Father also warned that in announcing the Kingdom of God “as a free gift”, there is a temptation to seek some form of strength or authority in preaching the Gospel. The temptation, he continued, cause a confusion where “proclamation becomes proselytizing.”
“The Church does not grow through proselytizing but by drawing people to her”. And this attraction comes from the testimony of those who freely proclaim the gratuity of salvation,” Pope Francis said.
“Everything is grace. Everything. And what are the signs of when an apostle lives this gratuity? There are so many, but I will underline only two: First, poverty. The proclamation of the Gospel must follow the path of poverty. The testimony of this poverty: I have no wealth, my wealth is the gift I received, God: this gratuity is our wealth! And this poverty saves us from becoming managers, entrepreneurs.”
The Church, he continued, should bring forth their works with a heart of poverty and not of an investment broker. “The Church is not an NGO,” the Holy Father exclaimed.
The Pope went on to say that the other sign of living in gratuity is praise, stressing that in praising the Lord, it is essentially a gratuitous prayer.
“These two are the signs of an apostle who lives this gratuity: poverty and the ability to praise the Lord,” the Pope concluded.
“And when we find the apostles who want to build a rich Church and a Church without the gratuitousness of praise, the Church becomes old, the Church becomes an NGO, the Church becomes lifeless. Today we ask the Lord for the grace to acknowledge this generosity: ‘Freely you have received, freely give’. Recognizing this gratuity, this gift of God . Let us move forward in preaching of Gospel.”