The present Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis paints a very unconventional image in my mind. An image of a person in a very important office but is not afraid to get down and dirty. Pope Francis’ projects an aura of a radical person, humble, sincere and authentic. His character does not fail to impress and inspire the Catholic flock.
Just last month, Pope Francis’ unique style of shepherding the flock shone through in the preparation and celebration of the World Youth Day 2013 at Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. “I want to tell you something. What is that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves, in our parishes, our schools or structures. Because these need to get out.”1 The Pope’s unusual message turned a lot of heads and raised many eyebrows in the Church. The Pope’s message can easily be misinterpreted or misunderstood therefore there is a need to see what the message truly conveys.
The Pope seemingly promotes rebellion in his message and invites the youth to make a “mess.” But what he truly means is the exact opposite of the common understanding we get from his interesting play on words. The youth are called to rebel and stand their ground against what is not right and unfaithful to the Catholic Church’s teaching. The young people are the hope of the church. They are the ones who will comprise the next generation of the faithful and eventually build up the church. However, they are also the one sector in society often neglected or overlooked because of their clamor for autonomy and independence.
“He told youngsters to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a “mess,” saying a church that doesn’t go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.”2 And so Pope Francis urges the youth to “shake” the church. He does so without any intention of plunging the youth headfirst into blind idealism. The youth are not to become rebels without a cause trying to effect change through violence. The Holy Father desires that the young people become rebels with a cause, actively participating in the life of the church in their respective dioceses. The young people are to become the rebels of the Gospel of love spreading the faith in cooperation with their local churches.
“Go and make disciples of all nations.” With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.”3 This message of Pope Francis is an encouragement to the youth-participants but upon closer inspection, it is the call and mission of all Christians.
The Pope sends the message of commitment to all believers, to commit in “making disciples of all nations.”4 A wholehearted dedication is needed in becoming a “disciple with a mission.”5 Christians of today are called more than ever to share their “joy of faith.6” Faith is challenged today by rampant materialism, consumerism, practical atheism and despair, believers are mandated to share their faith, to share Jesus.
DO NOT BE AFRAID.
“Some people think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” The faithful are often hesitant to share their faith because of fear. Fear to be confronted or to be asked about their faith, feeling their faith is not that deep or they are not “experts” of their faith. But the Pope retorts “when we proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. He always accompanies us.”7 A personal encounter with Jesus will dispel the cloud of fear inflaming one with courage and zeal for mission. The act of sharing then becomes a fearless endeavor for “Jesus is with us.”8
“The life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service. Evangelising means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet or our brethren, as Jesus did.”9 Christianity is a religion of love. And everyone is called to witness to Gospel love, the love lived by Christ himself. Witnessing is an effective from of preaching. What better way to preach than to preach through service and action making faith visible and tangible. Not only the youth are enlisted to serve the Lord. All Christians are called to serve and bear witness to Christ.
Against the “culture of selfishness and individualism,”10 “the cult of money”11 and the “current of corruption”12 we are persuaded to rebel. The Pope’ message tells us to be a rebel of the Gospel. All believers must continue to be resisting and defiant to the ways of the world that oppose the will of God. During times when believers are pressured into conforming to the whims of the world, Jesus calls everyone to stand strong and stand firm rebel against all evil. “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him steadfast in faith.” (NAB 1 Pet 5:8-9) (Robert Lingo, OSA)
1 http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/453569/rebel-pope-urges-youth-to-make-a-mess-in-dioceses#ixzz2bAEqkY15. Accessed August 15, 2013
3 www.Vatican.vaPope Francis Full Text Homily for World Youth Day’s closing Mass July 28, 2013. . Accessed August 15, 2013.
10 http://enlightenedcatholicism-colkoch.blogspot.com/2013/07/pope-francis-wants-catholic youths-to.html . Accessed August 15, 2013
11 http://www2,mcleans.ca/2013/06/28/radical-in-white/. Accessed August 15, 2013.