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A New Missionary Age: Francis Calls Two Million Youth to Rebuild the Church
By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
In Francis, we have a missionary Pope, perhaps like few in history. He has done nothing but evangelize from the moment he stepped out onto that balcony at St Peters. His words and his actions have set the tone. There is no doubt in this deacon's mind that he is leading us all to embrace the missionary moment in which we live. He is calling us to live our lives in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. He is sending us out in response to the command of Jesus to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
COPACABANA BEACH, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Catholic Online) - With crowd estimates between two and three million strong, the youth of Brazil filled the Copacabana Beach on a Saturday evening to listen to the Pope who chose the name Francis, after the little poor man of Assisi named Francis. His message was the simple but ever powerful message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He called them to follow Jesus Christ - with all their hearts - and take their vital place in the mission of the Church. He called them to rebuild the Church in our day and fall in love with the Lord.
Using the parable of the sower and the seeed, the Holy Father gave an impassioned, simple and powerful invitation to the young to follow Jesus Christ in this hour. I believe this address will echo for years to come. It will help to bear the fruit of dedicated, young, heroic Christian lives. It will lead to an increase in all of the vocations which the Church needs, priesthood, diaconate in Christ, consecrated and religious life, consecrated Christian marriages and families, and the flourishing of the ecclesial movements. It will give rise to the heroic missionaries who are needed for this hour, in every segment of society.
In Francis, we have a missionary Pope, perhaps like few in history. He has done nothing but evangelize from the moment he stepped out onto that balcony at St Peters. His words and his actions have set the tone. There is no doubt in this deacon's mind that he is leading us all to embrace the missionary moment in which we live. He is calling us to live our lives in the heart of the Church for the sake of the world. He is sending us out in response to the command of Jesus to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. (Mk 16:15, Lk. 14:23, Mt. 28:19)
Jesus Christ is Lord. His salvation is extended to all men and women. The Church is God's plan for the entire world. The early Fathers called her the world reconciled. Through Baptism, we were born into a new relational reality; we now live in the Church for the sake of the world. We are called to love the Church with the affection of sons and daughters because she is our mother.
There is no plan B through which He will save this world. He established One Church through which to continue His work until His return. She has undergone purifications and reforms many times throughout her missionary journey for over two thousand years. Her hull may be battered but she is still the Ark of Salvation.
Church history demonstrates that seasons of purification are usually followed by times of great restoration and triumph for the Church. So it is in our own day.This Church that is called Catholic is not a mere human institution. If it were, it would have shipwrecked long ago.The Church exists to evangelize and the essential nature of the Church is missionary. The Catholic Church has always taught that every single human being on the face of the earth has a right to hear the liberating Gospel message of Jesus Christ as fully revealed in the heart of His Catholic Church. That will be accomplished in this hour by you and me, no matter what our state in life, or specific vocation.
We are all baptized into Christ to participate in the saving mission of His Church. However, in order to be able to engage such a missionary task, many Catholic Christians need to be renewed in their own Baptismal faith through a personal and transformative encounter with the Risen Lord. In addition, that encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ needs to be strengthened and secured by solid catechesis in living as a Catholic Christian. This is what is meant by the New Evangelization.
This New Evangelization invites each of us to live our baptismal vocation, completely given over to the work of the Lord, in the heart of the Church. It is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can then undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world. Only a Church fully alive in the Lord and filled with His Spirit can carry out such an evangelical mission.
The Church is the Ark, the boat, presided over by the Lord. He is at the helm, steering His redemptive course through time. The Lord of the harvest is calling workers for the New Evangelization and the new missionary age. He is sending us out on mission, fishing for men, women and Nations. He will work His saving and redemptive mission in and through us, because we are members of His Mystical Body, the Church.
We are at the beginning of a great resurgence in the Catholic Church, if we look with the eyes of living faith. The message of this Pope is precisely what is needed to foment and inspire a new missionary age. Just when her opponents are ready to count the Catholic Church out, the sleeping giant is rising. Along with the needed purification of the Church, the seeds of a new springtime are beginning to sprout.
For example, the fact that the ecclesial movements are flourishing, new and renewed religious communities are growing, new and renewed Colleges and Universities, desirous of being fully and faithfully Catholic, are flourishing, all point to the work of the Holy Spirit. They are the seedbed of vocations, sending out missionaries into every segment of the fields of this age which are ripe for harvest. There is a growing dynamically orthodox Catholic faith and life being manifested among the lay faithful.
The movement of our Anglican friends into full communion, the growing number of other Christians' coming home to the full communion of the Catholic Church, the movement toward the healing of the division between East and West, are all signs of a resurgent Catholic Church and a new missionary age. that crowd of enthusiastic youth on Copacabana beach is a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit at work.
The Lord who birthed the Church from His wounded side on Golgotha's Hill is purifying her and renewing her by His Spirit to continue his redemptive work until he returns to bring it to completion. He has been raised from the dead and now walks with our feet, builds with our hands and speaks through our words and witness. This is the Dawn of a New Missionary Age. We are all missionaries. The Pope is out recruiting the laborers for the vineyard. He is preparing the soil and spreading the seed.
Here is the full text of his message
Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Brazil
Dear Young Friends,
We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: "Francis, go, rebuild my house". The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord's call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.
Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? Well, I think we can learn something from what happened in these days: as we had to cancel due to bad weather, the realization of this vigil on the campus Fidei, in Guaratiba. Lord willing might we say that the real area of faith, the true campus fidei, is not a geographical place - but we, ourselves? Yes! Each of us, each one of you.
And missionary discipleship means to recognize that we are God's campus fidei, His "field of faith"! Therefore, from the image of the field of faith, starting with the name of the place, Campus Fidei, the field of faith, I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site.
1. A field is a place for sowing seeds. We all know the parable where Jesus speaks of a sower who went out to sow seeds in the field; some seed fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and could not grow; other seed fell on good soil and brought forth much fruit (cf. Mt 13:1-9). Jesus himself explains the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God sown in our hearts (cf. Mt 13:18-23). This, dear young people, means that the real Campus Fidei, the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life. It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.
Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord's word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don't have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord's word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22).
But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not "starchy" and superficial, but real. I am sure that you don't want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: he is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Let's trust in him. Let's make him our guide!
2. A field is a training ground. Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to "play on his team". I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord's disciples. Saint Paul tells us: "athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable" (1 Cor 9:25). Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!
He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, "to get in shape", so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true "athletes of Christ"!
3. A field is a construction site. When our heart is good soil which receives the word of God, when "we build up a sweat" in trying to live as Christians, we experience something tremendous: we are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church; indeed, we are building up the Church and we are making history. Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Looking at this platform, we see that it is in the shape of a church, built up with stones and bricks.
In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone! To me, to you, to each of us he says: "Go and make disciples of all nations". Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!
In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society - (and here in Brazil), they have gone out into the streets to express a desire for a more just and fraternal civilization. These are young people who want to be agents of change.
I encourage them, in an orderly, peaceful and responsible manner, motivated by the values of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to social and political concerns present in their countries. But the question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I!
Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ's athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world. Let us lift our gaze to Our Lady. Mary helps us to follow Jesus, she gives us the example by her own "yes" to God: "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say" (Lk 1:38). All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Amen!
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