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Pope’s Morning Homily: Evangelization Is an Art

Takes much more than knocking on a door; to evangelize is to accompany another on his journey

Evangelization is an art and never “a walk in the park,” Pope Francis said today during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Today is the feast of the Jesuit saint Peter Claver, and the Pope recalled his example during the homily, reflecting that evangelization is witnessing to Christ with one’s whole life.

According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father lamented in the homily that there are some Christians today, who live their lives of service as though they were mere functionaries – priests  and lay people who boast of what they do: “This is the boast: I am proud of myself. This reduces the Gospel to a function or even a source of pride: I go to preach the gospel and I’ve brought many people into the Church. To proselytize: that too is a source of pride. To evangelize is not to proselytize. That is, neither coast along, nor reduce the Gospel to rote work, nor to proselytize: none of these is really to evangelize. This is what Paul says here [in the 1st Letter to the Corinthians (9:16-19, 22b-27)]: ‘For me it is not a boast. For me it is a necessity’, adding, ‘one that is laid on me.’ A Christian has an obligation, the force of which is such as to make it like a heartfelt necessity to carry the name of Jesus.”

And what, then, ought to be the “style” by which we evangelize? By “becoming all things to all people,” Francis said, in reference to St. Paul.

He went on to say, “Go and share in the lives of others: accompany them on their journey of faith, that they might grow in faith along their way.”

We must put ourselves in the other’s condition: not to get in others’ way, but to be on the way with them. Pope Francis recalled an episode during lunch with young people at World Youth Day in Krakow, when a boy asked him what he should say to a close friend who was an atheist:

“It’s a good question. We all know people far from the Church: what should we tell them? I said: ‘Look, the last thing you need to do is say something! Begin to do, and he will see what you are doing and ask you about it; and when he asks you, then tell him. To evangelize is to give this testimony: I live the way I do, because I believe in Jesus Christ; I awaken in you a curiosity, so you ask me, ‘But why are you doing these things?’ The answer: ‘Because I believe in Jesus Christ and preach Jesus Christ and not just with the Word’ – you must proclaim the Word – but with your life.”

This is to evangelize, he said, “and this is done free of charge,” because, “we have freely received the Gospel.” Grace, salvation, can be neither bought nor sold: it is free. “We have to give it for free.”

 

Pope Francis then recalled the figure of St. Peter Claver: a missionary, he noted, who, “who went off to preach the Gospel.” Perhaps, wondered Pope Francis, “he thought his future would be devoted to preaching. The Lord, however, asked him to be close to those, who had been ‘discarded’ at that time: the slaves, the black people who arrived there from Africa, to be sold.”

“This man did not stroll along saying he evangelized: he did not reduce evangelism to a rote task, and even to a proselytizing; he proclaimed Jesus Christ with his actions, speaking to the slaves, living with them, living like them – and there are many like him in the Church – many people who annihilate themselves to proclaim Jesus Christ – and all of us, brothers and sisters, have an obligation to evangelize – and that does not mean a knock on the neighbor’s door to say: ‘Christ is risen!’ – it is living the faith, talking about it with meekness, with love, with no desire to win an argument (It. convincere), but [to give it away] for free: giving away freely that, which God has given to me – that is what it means to evangelize.”

 

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest
Lectionary: 441

Reading 1 1 COR 9:16-19, 22B-27

Brothers and sisters:
If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast,
for an obligation has been imposed on me,
and woe to me if I do not preach it!
If I do so willingly, I have a recompense,
but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
What then is my recompense?
That, when I preach, I offer the Gospel free of charge
so as not to make full use of my right in the Gospel.Although I am free in regard to all,
I have made myself a slave to all
so as to win over as many as possible.
I have become all things to all, to save at least some.
All this I do for the sake of the Gospel,
so that I too may have a share in it.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race,
but only one wins the prize?
Run so as to win.
Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.
They do it to win a perishable crown,
but we an imperishable one.
Thus I do not run aimlessly;
I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.
No, I drive my body and train it,
for fear that, after having preached to others,
I myself should be disqualified.

Responsorial Psalm PS 84:3, 4, 5-6, 12

R. (2) How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
their hearts are set upon the pilgrimage.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
For a sun and a shield is the LORD God;
grace and glory he bestows;
The LORD withholds no good thing
from those who walk in sincerity.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!

Alleluia SEE JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 6:39-42

Jesus told his disciples a parable:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?
Will not both fall into a pit?
No disciple is superior to the teacher;
but when fully trained,
every disciple will be like his teacher.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’
when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?
You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

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