Pope Francis’ Intention for October: For Missionary disciples

‘We pray that every baptized person may be engaged in evangelisation, available to the mission, by being witnesses of a life that has the flavour of the Gospel.’

On first hearing, Pope Francis’ hope that all baptised people, no matter how lacking in learning or eloquence, should be engaged in evangelisation is quite challenging. Evangelisation is a big word, and most of us would associate it with people who can talk powerfully about faith on street corners, radio and television. This isn’t what Pope Francis means when he talks about evangelisation and being missionary disciples. But what he does mean might be even more challenging.

As he speaks of it, to evangelise is to help people to be touched by the love of God which Jesus has shown to us. Evangelisation does not focus on what we do or say but on what people will see and hear when they look at our lives. Francis of Assisi, the Pope’s great hero and namesake, summed up this view when he urged his followers to preach the Good News, and only sometimes in words. The times when people would see the Good News shine out in the way in which Christians lived were more important than those when they heard about it through their words.

Most of us would recognise that to be true of our own lives. If we ask ourselves what has attracted us to faith in a loving God we would first think of people and what they were like. Their words were important because they matched their lives. Faith is contagious only when people are close to us.

‘If Christ moves you, if you do things because Christ is guiding you, others will notice it easily,’ Pope Francis says in his monthly video.

‘Let us remember that the mission is not proselytism; the mission is based on an encounter between people, on the testimony of men and women who say, “I know Jesus, and I’d like you to know Him too.”. The Pope urges all baptised Christians to be open to the demands of the Gospel. ‘Let us pray that every baptized person may be engaged in evangelization, available to the mission, by being witnesses of a life that has the flavour of the Gospel,’ he said.

As Pope Francis wrote on the occasion of the Extraordinary Mission Month in 2019, all Christians have a “missionary mandate”:

‘This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving.’

This is also the reason why saints are important in Catholic life. From them, we can catch something attractive in the Gospel. Faith grows when we rub shoulders with people of faith and sense that they have something precious in their lives which we would like to share. Pope Francis understands this and so insists that evangelising means moving out of our safe world and allowing strangers to see our lives and faith with all our weaknesses and strengths. That can be really scary because it asks us to let others see our real selves and to trust that this will draw them to the Gospel.