How can we develop and maintain the enthusiasm Pope Francis sees as very necessary tot he missionary impulse? In typical Ignatian fashion, we are invited to encounter Jesus. In this Jesus, we find friendship and love not only with him, but for others as well. It is what we were born to do. It is how we were made.
265. Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it: “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). Sometimes we lose our enthusiasm for mission because we forget that the Gospel responds to our deepest needs, since we were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters.
What qualities are asked of us? Two things: that we be adequate (not perfect) in our presentation of Jesus, and that we present the message with some attractiveness. Pope Francis says “beauty.”
If we succeed in expressing adequately and with beauty the essential content of the Gospel, surely this message will speak to the deepest yearnings of people’s hearts: “The missionary is convinced that, through the working of the Spirit, there already exists in individuals and peoples an expectation, even if an unconscious one, of knowing the truth about God, about (people), and about how we are to be set free from sin and death. The missionary’s enthusiasm in proclaiming Christ comes from the conviction that he is responding to that expectation”.[Redemptoris Missio 45]
St John Paul’s words lead us to this bit of encouragement, one of the most important passages in this whole document:
Enthusiasm for evangelization is based on this conviction. We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love.
And we can ask: has this been our experience of the Christian faith? There is no shame if it has not. We can apply ourselves to the task of acquainting ourselves anew with Jesus at any time. We can renew our friendship, and feel the sustenance fill us.
The apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is available online to read, any time.