The joy of consolation, the Cross and prayer were the reference points in Christian mission proposed by Pope Francis to the young seminarians, novices and all those who participated in Mass celebrated this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica. A broad summary of the Holy Father’s homily is given below:
“You are seminarians, novices, young people on a vocational journey, from every part of the world. You represent the Church’s youth! If the Church is the Bride of Christ, you in a certain sense represent the moment of betrothal, the Spring of vocation, the season of discovery … in which foundations are laid for the future. … Today the word of God speaks to us of mission. … What are the reference points of Christian mission? The readings we have heard suggest three: the joy of consolation, the Cross and prayer.
“The first element: the joy of consolation. The prophet Isaiah is addressing a people that has been through a dark period of exile, a very difficult trial. But now the time of consolation has come for Jerusalem; sadness and fear must give way to joy. … What is the reason for this invitation to joy? Because the Lord is going to pour out over the Holy City and its inhabitants a ‘cascade’ of consolation, a veritable overflow of consolation, a cascade of maternal tenderness: ‘You shall be carried upon her hip and dandled upon her knees’. As when a mother takes her child upon her knee and caresses him or her: so the Lord will do and does with us. This is the cascade of tenderness which gives us much consolation. … Every Christian, and especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God’s consolation, his tenderness towards all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others. This is important if our mission is to be fruitful: to feel God’s consolation and to pass it on to others! I have occasionally met consecrated persons who are afraid of the consolations of God, and … the poor things, they were tormented, because they are afraid of this divine tenderness. But do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of the consolations of the Lord. We must find the Lord who consoles us and go to console the people of God. This is the mission. People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good. What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others!
“The second reference point of mission is the Cross of Christ. Saint Paul, writing to the Galatians, says: ‘Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’. … In his ministry Paul experienced suffering, weakness and defeat, but also joy and consolation. This is the Paschal mystery of Jesus: the mystery of death and resurrection. … In the hour of darkness, in the hour of trial, the dawn of light and salvation is already present and operative. The Paschal mystery is the beating heart of the Church’s mission! And if we remain within this mystery, we are sheltered both from a worldly and triumphalistic view of mission and from the discouragement that can result from trials and failures. Pastoral fruitfulness, the fruitfulness of the Gospel proclamation is measured neither by success nor by failure according to the criteria of human evaluation, but by conforming to the logic of the Cross of Jesus, which is the logic of stepping outside oneself and offering oneself, the logic of love. It is the Cross – always the Cross that is present with Christ, because at times we are offered the Cross without Christ: this has no purpose! … It is from the Cross, the supreme act of mercy and love, that we are reborn as a ‘new creation’.
“Finally the third element: prayer. In the Gospel we heard: ‘Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers into his harvest’. The laborers for the harvest are not chosen through advertising campaigns or appeals of service and generosity, but they are ‘chosen’ and ‘sent’ by God. It is He who chooses, it is He who sends … it is He who gives the mission. For this, prayer is important. The Church, as Benedict XVI has often reiterated, is not ours, but God’s; and how many times do we, consecrated men and women, think that the Church is ours! We make of it… something that we invent in our minds. But it is not ours!, it is God’s. The field to be cultivated is His. The mission is grace. And if the Apostle is born of prayer, he finds in prayer the light and strength of his action”.
“Dear seminarians, dear novices, dear young people discerning your vocations. … Listen well: ‘evangelization is done on one’s knees’. Always be men and women of prayer! Without a constant relationship with God, the mission becomes a job. But for what do you work? As a tailor, a cook, a priest – is your job being a priest, being a sister? No. It is not a job, but rather something else. The risk of activism, of relying too much on structures, is an ever-present danger. If we look towards Jesus, we see that prior to any important decision or event he recollected himself in intense and prolonged prayer. Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties. And the more the mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be the more closely united to Christ’s heart, full of mercy and love. Herein lies the secret of pastoral fruitfulness, of the fruitfulness of a disciple of the Lord!
“Jesus sends his followers out with no ‘purse, no bag, no sandals’. The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed by the number of persons, nor by the prestige of the institution, nor by the quantity of available resources. What counts is being permeated by the love of Christ, allowing oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.
“Dear friends, with great confidence I entrust you to the intercession of Mary Most Holy. She is the Mother who helps us to take life decisions freely and without fear. May she help you to bear witness to the joy of God’s consolation, without being afraid of joy, she will help you to conform yourselves to the logic of love of the Cross, to grow in ever deeper union with the Lord in prayer. Then your lives will be rich and fruitful!”