VATICAN – Pope Francis: in the Christian mission there are no “protagonists” and “executors”

Rome – The Church “exists to evangelize, to go forth and to sow the seed of the Gospel in history”. Each baptized person can be involved in this great adventure, whatever his condition and his role in the Church and in the world is. For this reason “we must beware of the mentality that would separate priests and laity, considering the former as protagonists and the latter as executors, and together carry forward the Christian mission as the one People of God, laity and pastors”, recognizing that “the Church as a whole is an evangelizing community. The reference to the very nature of the Christian mission comes once again from Pope Francis, on the occasion of the 59th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated next Sunday on the theme: “Called to build the human family”. The papal message signed by the Pope on that day is dated Sunday, May 8, and is published – writes the Bishop of Rome in the incipit – “At the time when the cold winds of war and oppression are blowing”.
The papal text is developed as a reflection “on the broad meaning of ‘vocation’ “, within the context of a synodal Church, a Church that listens to God and to the world”.
The mission of announcing the Gospel – repeats the Pope in the message – can flourish from baptism and is not an exclusivity reserved for “special categories”. The annotations offered by the papal text concerning vocation testify to the same breadth of view, removing the vocational dynamic from any reductive and exclusivist interpretation. “The word ‘vocation’ – clarifies Pope Francis – should not be understood restrictively, as referring simply to those who follow the Lord through a life of special consecration. All of us are called to share in Christ’s mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God”. Broadening the horizon to the whole human family, the Pope suggests that the very condition of creation is marked by a certain vocation: the very fact of receiving the gift of life attests in fact that “each of us is a creature willed and loved by God; each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God”. And while each life is embraced by the Creator’s plan of love, we are all “called to be guardians of one another, to strengthen the bonds of harmony and sharing, and to heal the wounds of creation lest its beauty be destroyed. In a word, we are called to become a single family in the marvellous common home of creation, in the reconciled diversity of its elements. In this broad sense, not only individuals have a “vocation”, but peoples, communities and groups of various kinds as well.
Particular calls, which concern individuals and communities, are part of “this great common vocation”. They do not arise on their own, on the basis of a self-referential voluntarism. At the source of any particular call, there is always the work of God, “God’s loving gaze always meets us, touches us, sets us free and transforms us, making us into new persons”. That – insists the Successor of Peter – “is what happens in every vocation: we are met by the gaze of God, who calls us. Vocation, like holiness, is not an extraordinary experience reserved for a few. Just as there is a “holiness of the saints next door” , so too there is a vocation for everyone, for God’s gaze and call is directed to every person”. This vocational dynamic animates every authentic ecclesial mission, which is born and fulfilled as a reflection of Christ’s call in the lives of individuals and communities: “God’s loving and creative gaze”, writes the Pope, “met us in an entirely unique way in Jesus. The evangelist Mark tells us that, in speaking with the rich young man, “Jesus looking upon him, loved him” . This gaze of Jesus, full of love, rests upon each of us. Brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be moved by this gaze to allow him to lead us outside of ourselves! Let us also learn to look at one another in such a way that all those with whom we live and encounter – whoever they may be – will feel welcomed and discover that there is Someone who looks at them with love and invites them to develop their full potential” . Our lives change “when we welcome this gaze”, adds the Pope. And as an example of a life changed by the gaze of Christ he proposes the story of the Venezuelan Blessed José Gregorio Hernández Cisneros: “While working as a physician in Caracas, Venezuela, he wanted to become a Third Order Franciscan. Later, he thought of becoming a monk and a priest, but his health did not allow it. He came to understand that his calling was the medical profession, in which he spent himself above all in service to the poor. He devoted himself unreservedly to those who had contracted the worldwide epidemic known as the “Spanish flu”. He died, hit by a car, as he was leaving a pharmacy after purchasing medicine for one of his elderly patients. An exemplary witness of what it means to accept the call of the Lord and embrace it fully, he was beatified a year ago”.

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