Back one more time with the last installment of Pope Francis is an Evangelical!
Magisterial-Goodnewsical Moment #4
Our Purpose is to Bear Fruit: “The Church exists to evangelize.” (Evangelization of the Modern World, Pope Paul VI)
Francis’ priority is decidedly not Church as an unsullied “remnant” of what any group deems to be truly Catholic. I’ve heard this Old Testament remnant analogy claimed by people all over the theological spectrum.
This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity. And the church is Mother; the church is fruitful. It must be. You see, when I perceive negative behavior in ministers of the church or in consecrated men or women, the first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Here’s an unfruitful bachelor’ or ‘Here’s a spinster.’ They are neither fathers nor mothers, in the sense that they have not been able to give spiritual life. Instead, for example, when I read the life of the Salesian missionaries who went to Patagonia, I read a story of the fullness of life, of fruitfulness. (America interview)
Remnant is not a fruitful image: it’s static, small and dangerously self-congratulatory.
Francis values fruit. He must or evangelization will not again be “the essential mission of the Church” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).
Why does that matter more than anything else? Because during the pre-Halloween bacchanalia “Freak Fest” soon to happen here near UW-Madison campus where I sit writing this, at least one drunken drugged woman will be raped – probably far more than one; a lonely troubled young man will drink himself to oblivion because he has no idea how to escape from that personal prison, and possibly end up damaging himself or another – maybe even accidentally killing someone.
It’s happened before.
Darkness has a firm grip on our campuses, our cities, our world. It was and is Christ’s mission, and therefore ours, not just to tend to the wounds, heal the hurts, and teach about the moral causes of pain and destruction. Our mission is to go into the darkness on a rescue operation, singing a song that can be heard by those living in the sickening miasma. Jesus came to set the captives free.
Having worked in campus ministry the last 20 years, I can attest, faithful students live in a spiritual war zone. If we aren’t battling for souls, we are abandoning our primary mission as surely as if we were doctors walking by wounded on the battlefield.
Please pray for this mission. And please pray for Francis as he fields the confusion, concern and criticism this new papal priority draws. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and inspire him.