Continuing here with the address of Pope Francis last month to his brother bishops of Latin America. We would never have heard language like “permanent state of mission” before Vatican II. Or that much in the immediate years after that. Ad Gentes is a document that would today be elevated with the Big Four, were the council called in this century.
Pope Francis is not afraid of the journey:
We often hear it said that the Church is in a permanent state of mission. Setting out with Jesus is the condition for this. Setting out, yes, but with Jesus. The Gospel speaks of Jesus who, having proceeded from the Father, journeys with his disciples through the fields and the towns of Galilee. His journeying is not meaningless.
Indeed not. The journey is about opportunity. It might also be so for us, if we were more attentive:
As Jesus walks, he encounters people. When he meets people, he draws near to them. When he draws near to them, he talks to them. When he talks to them, he touches them with his power. When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation. His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father. We must never stop reflecting on this and examining our consciences.
Examining conscience: this term usually applies when we are in a state of sin. Is the lack or poverty of our mission a case of “what we have failed to do”?
The Church has to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission. To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear.
Positively, I see the need to draw near, to be ready, to have courage.
It is a matter of working by day in the fields, where God’s people, entrusted to your care, live their lives. We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies. We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them. The mission is always carried out by one to one contact.
Pope Francis is not alone, nor is he the first spiritual leader to advocate for one-to-one contact. Christian personalism was part of the formative ministry of Pope John Paul II especially before he was called to the office of bishop, cardinal, and then pope. Many saints illustrate this, and many were effective in spreading apostolates, healing people, and being open to the currents of the Holy Spirit. Not a bad approach for any of us, in or out of ministry.