At Mass, our Lord answers a question on fasting to draw attention to his unique role, this time described as being like that of a bridegroom. This recalls St John the Baptist’s describing Christ as the bridegroom whose very voice delights his friend and thus completes his joy.
The pope has encouraged those who spread the Gospel to do so joyfully. He says: “an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” In giving further guidance on evangelisation, the pope writes: “Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults.” Rather, “the Gospel invites us:
- to respond to the God of love who saves us
- to see God in others
- and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”
Evangelisation is thus more than the mere imparting of doctrinal facts to the human targets of our outreach. It is, rather, an eruption of grateful joy at the realisation of God’s salvific love for the evangeliser, as well as a very practical act of charity towards those whom he or she seeks to bring to the faith. When we evangelise we may think we are bringing God to others, but we need also to see Him as already present in them. It’s not enough to want to chalk-up converts on our evangelistic scoreboard; we need to advance those people’s welfare.
This advice on the church’s mission come from Pope Francis’s first chapter of Evangelii gaudium. In it, he describes how believers in God have always been urged not just to rejoice in their faith but to spread it. The pope also wants “the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures [to] be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” This is a change of corporate culture, from one of institutional maintenance to one of net growth.
In the last section of this chapter, after the pope has called for church-buildings to be left open, he establishes the church’s evangelistic priority: the sick and the poor. This he derives from Pope Benedict’s 2007 address to the Brazilian bishops. The current pope wants a church “out on the streets”.