“I conclude my visit to Madagascar here with you. As I witness your joy and think of everything else that I have seen during my brief stay on your island, my heart echoes the words spoken by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. Filled with joy, he exclaimed: ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to little ones’ (Lk 10:21). My joy has been confirmed by your testimonies, for even those things you see as problems are signs of a Church that is alive, dynamic and striving to be each day to be a sign of the Lord’s presence.”
Those were the words of Pope Francis following a joyful reception to Madagascar’s College of Saint Michael. The Holy Father chose as his final audience the island nation’s priests, religious, consecrated, and seminarians.
“The words of the Gospel that I cited above are part of the Lord’s prayer of praise as he welcomed back the seventy-two disciples from their mission,” the Pope said. “Like yourselves, those disciples accepted the challenge of being a Church that ‘goes forth’.
“They came back with their bags full, to share everything that they saw and heard. You too dared to go forth, and you accepted the challenge of bringing the light of the Gospel to the different parts of this island.”
The Holy Father acknowledged that many of those listening live in difficult conditions. Indeed, many work among the poor and lack easy access to such basic services as water and electricity. Financial resources are scarce and the hard work can take a toll on the health of religious workers.
In that environment, the Pope reminded the crowd of their need for prayer and praise. He echoed the actions of Jesus when the 72 returned after venturing forth.
“Welcoming back his disciples and hearing of their joy, Jesus immediately praises and blesses his heavenly Father,” Francis recalled. “This makes us see something basic about our vocation. We are men and women of praise.
“Consecrated persons are able to recognize and point out the presence of God wherever they find themselves. Even better, they are able to dwell in God’s presence because they have learned how to savor, enjoy and share that presence.
“In praise, we discover the beauty of our identity as part of a people. Praise frees disciples from obsessing about ‘what ought to be done’; it restores our enthusiasm for mission and for being in the midst of our people. Praise helps us refine the ‘criteria’ by which we take stock of ourselves and others and all our missionary projects. In this way, it keeps us from losing our evangelical ‘flavor’.