“Go and make disciples of all nations.” From these words of Jesus, Pope Francis, in his Sunday homily, drew three parting ideas to give to World Youth Day participants–and to all Catholics. As usual, Francis’s remarks were well worth pondering. Here are his three final thoughts:
1. “Go.” Francis reminds us that we are sent by God, sent on a mission to share the faith we have been given. Recalling once again his many admonitions that the Church must not be “self-referential,” he said that “the experience of this encounter [with Jesus at World Youth Day] must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community.” Moreover, he reminded us that this mission is not easy, that it actually requires heroism. “Jesus did not say: ‘go, if you would like to, if you have the time,’ but he said: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.'” We have to overcome our own laziness to pursue this mission, remembering that Jesus did not come to just give part of himself to give us but “the whole of himself”: “he gave his life in order to save us and show us the love and mercy of God.” Moreover (and bringing to mind his earlier call, noted by Emily Stimson, to be constructively annoying) the Pope said that the call to proclaim the faith is a call to proclaim it to everybody, because it is for everybody, even those who really don’t want to hear it. “It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. Do not be afraid to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.” Secularized societies often emphasize a kind of “politeness” according to which you should not talk about religion in front of people who are not interested in it. Francis suggests that this “politeness” is no part of our mission.
2. “Do not be afraid.” Here Francis pulled a favorite from John Paul II’s pages. We might shrink from the task on which we are sent by Jesus, thinking that we are not adequate, that we lack the skills to carry it out. Francis reassures us that this is the same fear felt by the prophet Jeremiah, and that if we imitate him we will find that we are not called to this mission alone. God will go with us, the Church will be with us. And, Francis reminded his young audience, we will have the companionship and support of the “communion of the saints on this mission.” This reminds us that, faced with the difficulties of the Christian mission, we should console ourselves by making our favorite saints present to our imaginations at all times, as if they were right there with us–because, as the pope indicates, they really are right there with us, unseen, helping us with their prayers, the more so the more we ask them.
3. “Serve.” Francis ended by reminding us that the Christian mission is a call to service, to place ourselves at the service of others. Here he made an interesting connection to the Psalm of Sunday’s Mass: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” Francis asked: “What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus,” which is “a life for others,” a “life of service.” This comparison of the Christian life to a song is something that the young (and really all of us) need to hear. It is a reminder that we are called to live lives that are beautiful, as a good song is beautiful. The life of the Christian disciple does not reach its peak in obeying rules. Certainly there are rules that must be obeyed to keep us on the right track, just as a song written without regard to the rules of melody and harmony will not sound beautiful. But the ultimate aim is to imitate the life of Jesus, which was a life of beautiful love and service–the most beautiful example of such love and service.
“Go and make disciples of all nations.”