Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy reflects on Pope Francis’ October intention to pray that every baptized person may be engaged in evangelization, available to the mission, by being witnesses of a life that has the flavor of the Gospel.
With the arrival of October we are mindful of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Judging from the shelves in stores, most of the rest of our country seems to be very mindful of Halloween. Other calendars proclaim this as National Vegetarian Month, Squirrel Awareness Month and National Cookie Month. While all of these may hold greater or lesser importance for each of us, the Holy Father’s intention calls us to an important challenge in our life of faith and in the life of the Church. He asks us to pray that every baptized person may be engaged in evangelization, available to the mission, by being witnesses of a life that has the flavor of the Gospel.
Let’s consider the first call on its own. This is the call that each baptized person may be engaged in evangelization. As St. Francis proclaimed, we can do this by, “Preaching and using words when necessary.” Often our actions hold a much more potent message than our verbiage. The word evangelization comes from the Greek euangelion which means glad tidings. Thus, our use of the words Good News. The Good News is the gospel message known as the kerygma which is also Greek and translates as proclamation. So, our first challenge is to boldly proclaim this Good News to everyone.
The second challenge in Pope Francis’ intention is that every baptized person may be available to the mission. What mission? “The most central mission of the Catholic Church and her deepest identity is this evangelization, the calling of every intentional disciple of Christ.” (Light of the World Evangelization Ministries, Imprimatur was granted from Bishop Thomas G. Doran on April 13, 2005) Availability for the mission implies an openness to the working of the Holy Spirit. We are not merely asked to consider evangelizing when it is convenient or when we feel inspired. We are asked to be available to proclaim the Good News, as St. Paul urges, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Tim. 4:2)
Finally, the Holy Father asks us to be witnesses of a life that has the flavor of the Gospel. What is that flavor? It is surely not a taste of bitterness born of anger, nor should this life leave a cloyingly sweet aftertaste of self-righteousness. The flavor of the Gospel, Jesus tells us should be that of salt, for we are to be salt for the earth. We are to act as salt does; it merely enhances the flavors that are already present. The Gospel provides the sustenance and our proclamation in word and action shows our world how Jesus’ message fits into today’s context.
Thus, we are to be engaged, available and witnessing. Perhaps one context in which we can actively live out this intention of Pope Francis is to remember that October is also Respect Life Month. This designation dates back to 1972, when the U.S. bishops started a respect life program in October, in anticipation of the Roe vs. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in January 1973. The message of reverence for life is truly a Gospel message and may be a word that we can speak clearly during these upcoming weeks as we recall the challenge at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “Before ascending to the Father, Jesus commissioned the disciples to preach the gospel to every person on earth.”