I was just speaking to one of our seminarians just back from Rome, and we both concurred that one of our challenges now is to get to know our new Holy Father. Yes, he has manifested his personality in a marvelous way, and his care and prayer are evident and having a remarkable effect on the world already, especially those less inclined to be attentive to the Successor to Peter. But for those of us who are in the habit of paying attention, there are a few cues still missing.
So imagine my delight to return to my computer last Sunday and find the homily our Holy Father had preached on the exact same readings I had preached that morning. This he delivered to a Mass full of seminarians, novices and those discerning their vocations:
Today the word of God speaks to us of mission. Where does mission originate? The answer is simple: it originates from a call, the Lord’s call, and when he calls people, he does so with a view to sending them out.
The first element: the joy of consolation. The prophet Isaiah is addressing a people that has been through a dark period of exile… But now the time of consolation has come for Jerusalem; … “Rejoice... be glad... rejoice with her in joy.” Why? For what reason? Because the Lord is going to pour out over the Holy City and its inhabitants a “torrent” of consolation, of maternal tenderness… Every Christian, especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God’s consolation, his tenderness towards all… People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good.
The second reference point of mission is the Cross of Christ. Saint Paul, writing to the Galatians, says: “Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14)… In his ministry Paul experienced suffering, weakness and defeat, but also joy and consolation… And it was precisely by letting himself be conformed to the death of Jesus that Saint Paul became a sharer in his resurrection, in his victory… The Paschal mystery is the beating heart of the Church’s mission! And if we remain within this mystery, we are sheltered both from a worldly and triumphalistic view of mission, and from the discouragement that can result from trials and failures. The fruitfulness of the Gospel proclamation is measured neither by success nor by failure… but by becoming conformed to the logic of the Cross of Jesus, which is the logic of stepping outside oneself and spending oneself, the logic of love.
Finally the third element: prayer. In the Gospel we heard: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2). The laborers for the harvest are not chosen through advertising campaigns or appeals for service and generosity, but they are “chosen” and “sent” by God. For this, prayer is important. The Church is not ours, but God’s; the field to be cultivated is his. The mission, then, is primarily about grace… Our mission ceases to bear fruit, indeed, it is extinguished the moment the link with its source, with the Lord, is interrupted.
Without a constant relationship with God, the mission becomes a job. The risk of activism, of relying too much on structures, is an ever-present danger. If we look towards Jesus, we see that prior to any important decision or event he recollected himself in intense and prolonged prayer. Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and pressing duties.
I had to cut out some parts to fit this into the space; you can find the whole thing on line. But here is a hint to the joy of getting to know the new Pope. Let us enjoy this happy work together!