Francis: evangelize, don’t ‘advertise;’ speak frankly
(Vatican Radio) The Church is a place of “openness” where people should say things with frankness. That’s what Pope Francis said at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican on Monday. The Pontiff added that only the Holy Spirit is able to change our attitude, the story of our lives, and to give us courage – just as the Apostles were inspired by Christ’s Resurrection.
“We cannot keep silent [about] what we have seen and heard,” Pope Francis said in his homily, alluding to the day’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Peter and John ask the Lord to enable them to speak freely and openly.
Speak frankly without fear
The Pontiff recalled that Peter and John, having performed a miracle, had been jailed and threatened by the priests not to speak in the name of Jesus. But they continue to do so and when they return to the others, they encourage them to proclaim the Word of God “with frankness.” They entreat the Lord “to take note of their threats” and enable His “servants” “to not flee” but to proclaim His Word “boldly.”
“And today too, the Church’s message is the message of the path of openness, the path of Christian courage,” the Pope said. “These two simple [men]- as the Bible says – with no education, had courage. A word that can be translated as ‘courage,’ ‘straightforwardness,’ ‘freedom to speak,’ ‘not being afraid to say things’ … It’s a word that has many meanings, in its original form. Parrésia, that frankness … and their fear gave way to ‘openness,’ to saying things with freedom. “
Francis then reflected on the Gospel passage today that recounts the somewhat “mysterious” dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus,” regarding “second birth” and “having a new life, different from the first.”
Proclaiming Christ, without “advertising”
The Pope pointed out that in this story too, “on this journey of openness,” the “true protagonist” is “precisely the Holy Spirit”, “because He is the only one able to give us this grace of courage to proclaim Jesus Christ”:
“And this courage of proclamation is what distinguishes us from simple proselytism. We do not advertise, says Jesus Christ, to have more ‘members’ in our ‘spiritual society’, no? This is not necessary. There’s no need; it’s not Christian. What the Christian does is to announce with courage, and the proclamation of Jesus Christ causes, through the Holy Spirit, that astonishment that keeps us going. “
The real protagonist of all this, the Pope resumed, is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus talks about being ‘born again,’ he said, He makes us understand that it is “the Spirit that changes us, that comes from anywhere, like the wind: we hear his voice.” And, he added, “only the Spirit is able to change our attitude”, to “change the story of our lives, to change our being.”
Courage, a grace that comes from the Holy Spirit
It is the Spirit, the Pope affirmed, which gives Peter and John, “these simple, uneducated men…this strength to proclaim Jesus Christ up until the final witness: martyrdom”:
“The path of Christian courage is a grace given by the Holy Spirit. There are so many paths that we can take that also give us a certain amount of courage. ‘But look at that brave decision he has taken! And look at this one: look how he laid out this plan well, organized things, [bravo]!’ This helps, but it is an instrument of something bigger: the Spirit. If there is no Spirit, we can do many things, much work, but it is not of any use.”
After Easter, added Francis, the Church “prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit.” In the “celebration of the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he prayed, may we remember “the whole history of salvation” and “ask for the grace to receive the Spirit to give us the true courage to announce Jesus Christ “.