Proclaiming the Gospel in a secularized world
By Andrea Tornielli
Pope Francis’ discourse to the Roman Curia on Saturday 21 December, was important both in terms of what he said, and how he said it. Recognizing something that was already evident to several great men of the Church even before the Second Vatican Council, the Pope confirmed that: "Christendom no longer exists”.
“Today we are no longer the only ones who create culture, nor are we in the forefront or those most listened to… We are no longer living in a Christian world, because faith – especially in Europe, but also in a large part of the West – is no longer an evident presupposition of social life; indeed, faith is often rejected, derided, marginalized and ridiculed”.
“We need a change in our pastoral mindset, which does not mean moving towards a relativistic pastoral care”, said Pope Francis. This change of mentality means recognizing that “Christian life is a journey, a pilgrimage”, one that “is not just geographical, but above all symbolic: it is a summons to discover the movement of the heart, which, paradoxically, has to set out in order to remain, to change in order to be faithful”.
The faith used to be passed on within families and the example of parents; society too was inspired by Christian principles. Today this transmission has been interrupted and our social context, if not anti-Christian, appears to be at least impermeable to the Christian faith. Hence the question that gave life to the Second Vatican Council and was reflected in recent pontificates: how to proclaim the Gospel where it is no longer known or recognized?
It is no coincidence that with an exponential crescendo, successive Bishops of Rome have identified mercy as the medicine necessary to heal the wounds of contemporary humanity. The mercy of a God who seeks us out, approaches us, and embraces us before judging us. It is by experiencing that embrace that we recognize ourselves as poor sinners in constant need of help.
At the end of Saturday’s meeting, Pope Francis gave his collaborators of the Curia a copy of the book-length interview "Without Him we can do nothing", written with Gianni Valente. The Pope called it "the document" he wanted to offer for the extraordinary missionary month. In that recently published book, Pope Francis explains that "mission is His work", the work of Jesus.
"It's pointless getting agitated. There is no need to get organized, or to make a noise. There's no need for gimmicks or stratagems", because "it is Christ who makes the Church come out of itself. In the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you. And when you arrive, you realize that He has come before you, and is waiting for you”.
Proclaiming the Gospel, adds the Pope, "does not consist in besieging others with apologetic speeches”, in shouting “the truth of Revelation” in peoples’ faces. Even less "is it necessary to fling truths and doctrinal formulas on others as if they were stones". Because "the literal repetition of the announcement in itself has no effect, and can fall into emptiness, if the people to whom it is addressed have no opportunity to meet and taste in some way God’s tenderness, and His healing mercy".
A distinctive feature of the Christian mission, suggests Pope Francis, "is that of acting as facilitators, and not as controllers of the faith". To facilitate, that is, "make it easy, not to put us in the way of Jesus' desire to embrace everyone, to heal everyone, to save everyone".
Always aware that "without Him we can do nothing".