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Evangelical Pope Francis Calls Us to Live in the Heart of the Church for the Sake of the World

By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

I agree with my friend Alejandro. Pope Francis teaches, preaches and lives with his heart. His gospel simplicity informs an evangelical way of life which speaks through both word and action. He lives in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world and calls all of us to do the same. Faith is a verb, it must be exercised. By living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world we participate in bringing the world back to God. This missionary mindset has inspired missionary ages in the past and brought extraordinary change to cultures. It can - and it will - once again!

VALRICO, FL (Catholic Online) - Like millions throughout the world, I am moved by the evangelical manner of this Pope who chose the name Francis. In a recent article I encouraged our readers "get ready; this is an Evangelical Catholic Pope." This papacy also presents an evangelical moment for the Church and the world.

On April 1, 2013, I read the most compelling insight into the man who now holds Peters Chair as a servant of the servants of God. It was written by my friend Alejandro Bermudez for the National Catholic Register. The article is entitled Pope Francis' Ideas of What Is at the Heart of the Church  Here is an excerpt:

"For Pope Francis, the heart of the Church is, well, the heart. That is, the human heart and its transformative relationship with God's heart. The heart in Jesuit spirituality is a crucial concept. The Jesuits were the first to promote devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus around the world. Initially, they were accused of heresy for promoting the concept that the human heart of Jesus was a permanent living source of mercy, as revealed by God to St. Marguerite Marie Alacoque in the 17th century."

"Unlike the modern reduction of the heart to the experience of feelings, which are to be followed at the expense of our brains, in the Jesuit tradition, the heart is the core of the human person, the place of the soul, where the encounter between God and man takes place. "

"The heart is, in fact, not only the most inner sanctum of the human person, but also the root of the human will. According to the Jesuit understanding, the heart is the source of human action and endurance. Therefore, both personal conversion and solidarity begin with the human heart."

"This is the concept of heart that has formed Pope Francis. In 10 years of written homilies, speeches and pastoral letters, the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires has mentioned the heart from this perspective an average of four times per occasion."

I agree with my friend Alejandro. Pope Francis teaches, preaches and lives with his heart. His gospel simplicity informs an evangelical way of life which speaks through both word and action. He lives in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world and calls all of us to do the same.

Faith is a verb, it must be exercised. By living in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world we participate in bringing the world back to God. This missionary mindset has inspired missionary ages in the past and brought extraordinary change to cultures. It can - and it will - once again!

We have in Francis a man who shows us the way to live the Gospel from the heart.  The seed of the kingdom has been planted within us. (See, Matt.13, Mk. 4, and Luke 8) This parable of the sower and the seed refers to us both individually and together as the Body of Christ.

We are the seed, the salt and the leaven which the Divine Sower Jesus uses in His ongoing redemptive mission. He spreads us in the field of the world to bear a harvest. We are missionaries of the kingdom of which the Church is a seed and sign. The parables of mission in the Bible present other images to communicate our call to evangelical mission. For example, Jesus said to his disciples:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden."

"Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." (Matt. 5: 13 - 16)

The reference to the light calls to mind the words of the Lord, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) We have the light of life within us. We carry that Light into an age steeped in darkness, crying out for the authentic liberation which comes only through encountering Jesus Christ. 

The Church bears light for the world. The light of Jesus "shines on the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5) We cannot withdraw from the world because we cannot let the darkness overcome it.

Just as there can be no disembodied spirituality worthy of the name Christian - because redemption involves the integrated human person, body, soul and spirit - there cannot be a disembodied understanding of the mission we have as members of a Church which is still called into the world.

The words of 1 John 4:17 remind us "As He is so are we in the world".  We are alive in this time in human history with a missionary purpose. This is an evangelical moment.  Our lives are meant to have a redemptive purpose. No matter how rocky the soil of the American culture is becoming, we do not have the option of pulling out of our obligation to participate.
 
Matthews Gospel  presents other images to communicate this mission: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches. The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened." (Matt. 13: 31 - 33)

St. Jose Maria Escriva once opined, "May Our Lord be able to use us so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world - and at the same time placed in God - we become salt, leaven and light. Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth and new life. But don't forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it. (St. Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, 250)

The power to effect redemptive change in the world comes from the life of God within us. It is amazing how little leaven it takes to raise a loaf of bread. That is because within those little particles of yeast is found the power to ferment, to change the lump of wet dough into a loaf of aromatic, tasty, nourishing bread.

The power contained within the yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough. Once you work the leaven in, it is still hidden to the eye but how it transforms that loaf! So it is with Christians within human culture!

The power within us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (See Romans 8:11)! It is the power of the Holy Spirit. All we are asked to do is to mix it up. We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption.

This is a challenging time for the Church in the United States and the West. It is the kind of historic period which two thousand years of Church history has shown us produces heroes and saints - and sometimes martyrs. We should ask the Lord for the grace to be open to whatever he calls us to do.

Before they were called Christians in Antioch, the early followers of Jesus were referred to as the Way (Acts 19, 9, 23). Their living faith was expressed in the way they lived their lives in the midst of the world of their age. They were missionaries. So are we, no matter what our state in life or specific vocation.

Our Evangelical Pope Francis calls us to live in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. He also shows us the way.

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