Monday, 1 April 2013

Marked by the essential.

Since the appearance of Pope Francis on the balcony after his election I have been deeply impacted by him, and I am beginning to come to terms with this impact.
Pope Francis seems so different from both Bl John Paul II and from Benedict XVI and I feel as though I have been waiting for him to show us 'his true colours', as it were. Yet, I think that he has been showing us his overt intentions and his leadership from the very moment he appeared on the balcony. 
It was way back in 1975 that Pope Paul VI saw, prophetically, the need for a new evangelisation (he indicated this clearly in his Letter Evangelii Nuntiandi). And it was eight years later that John Paul II again, prophetically, began calling the Church to commit all her energies to evangelisation. He drew out for the whole Church the broad brush strokes of the New Evangelisation and, although many in the Church responded to his call, many did not. Then, Pope Benedict, carefully drew out for us a deeper appreciation of the New Evangelisation. And again, although some responded, many did not. Whilst we in Europe, in response to the Pope's calls, have talked about evangelisation (including myself), the Church in the Americas has been doing it! This is the difference that we are seeing in Pope Francis. Three Pope's now have taught us and called us to a new evangelisation. That time is now over; now we must let go of our reticence and allow Christ to love the world into life.
But what really makes me think that in Pope Francis we are already witnessing an evangelising Pope, are some words of Pope Benedict which have been resonating in my heart since he gave them to us. In his first Encyclical Letter he said that "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." Again, in his last Letter, Verbum Domini, he repeats, "The Christian life is essentially marked by an encounter with Jesus Christ, who calls us to follow him." Our lives are all about Christ; we live by grace or not at all!
We have received so much formation and enrichment from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, a formation and an enrichment which was intended to lead us to better serve the world. Pope Francis is already giving, and showing us that the life we profess is a life which is the gift of Christ, and it is that life which we are called to witness to and make available to others. This is the unique purpose of our being Catholics.
In some quarters people are calling him, as a matter of urgency, to reform the Roman Curia. Yet by his witness and example he is already making that reform - by shining light on what actually needs to be done - to enable people across the world to have a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ.  
When I was studying in Valencia, 1998 - 2000, I remember a Spanish priest remarking to me that, although much of the Church in the New World was getting into gear with the New Evangelisation, an ancient Archdiocese like Valencia would need an awful lot of effort to get it to change course. For more than thirty years now the Holy Spirit and three Pope's have called us stake everything on Christ and to serve the world through Him. The talking is over; there is a new Pope who will simply do it.

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