Pope Francis has said a lot since taking hold of Peter’s keys.
His remarks about gays, atheists, and other hot-button topics have kept everyone (and I mean everyone) talking.
A favorite headline among Catholic bloggers is now, “Did Pope Francis Really Say __________? 10 Things to Know!”
But some of the things — arguably the most important things — are rarely mentioned at all.
The evils of clericalism.
Solidarity with the poor.
And perhaps most significant: the obligation to be a missionary of the Gospel.
Since his election in March, Francis has beat the mission drum again and again in his homilies, interviews and letters.
If we’ve paid any attention at all, it has been impossible to miss.
Below is just a sampling of what our Argentine Pope has said in recent months.
In the World Mission Day message written on May 19:
“The Second Vatican Council emphasized in a special way how the missionary task, that of broadening the boundaries of faith, belongs to every baptized person and all Christian communities…Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect.”
On July 7 at the Sunday Angelus:
“Everyone must be a missionary, everyone can hear that call of Jesus and go forth and proclaim the Kingdom!”
In Rio de Janeiro at the end of July:
“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.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you.”
On September 14 in a letter to the Archbishop of Santa Fé, Argentina:
“[This] is what Jesus wants today: missionary disciples!“
The call isn’t going away. In fact, Pope Francis only seems to be getting warmed up.
Like his predecessors, he sees that the paramount issue of the day is that all Catholics take the task of evangelization seriously.
In Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Redemptoris missio, it was stated in no uncertain terms:
As the second millennium after Christ’s coming draws to an end, an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service. It is the Spirit who impels us to proclaim the great works of God: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9: 16)
In the name of the whole Church, I sense an urgent duty to repeat this cry of St. Paul. From the beginning of my Pontificate I have chosen to travel to the ends of the earth in order to show this missionary concern. My direct contact with peoples who do not know Christ has convinced me even more of the urgency of missionary activity, a subject to which I am devoting the present encyclical…
No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.
Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Mission Day 2012 was as firm:
All the components of the large mosaic of the Church must feel strongly called into question by the mandate of the Lord to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be proclaimed everywhere. We pastors, men and women religious and all the faithful in Christ, should follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who, as “a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles” (Eph 3:1), worked, suffered and struggled to bring the Gospel among the Gentiles (cf. Col 1:24-29), sparing no energy, time or means to make the Message of Christ known.
For those of us paying attention, the Church’s priority is clear.
So, instead of worrying about what the pope is “really” saying, let’s start talking about what we already know.
And that is this: Christ must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth by those who love him.
We have work to do.