Spirit Filled Evangelizers

The last chapter, chapter five, of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is titled “Spirit-Filled Evangelizers.” And the Pope wastes no time at getting to the heart-of-the matter by stating in the chapter’s first sentence “Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangeliz­ers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit” (259). With this strong start, the Pope encourages us and urges us to share the joy of the gospel by being open to the workings of the Holy Spirit within each of us and by responding to, cooperating with, and acting on those workings of the Holy Spirit to carry through on Christ’s commission to us to “Go and make disciples of all nations”(Matt 28:19-20).

 

Because we are made members of Christ's body, the Church, we too share in the mission of Christ. In order to truly understand the nature of the mission, one must fully give of him/herself totally in prayer and contemplation. It is through constant prayer, meditation, and contemplation that we allow the Holy Spirit to nourish, guide, prepare, shape, strengthen, and stir deep within the desire to become true spirit-filled evangelizers of the Gospel. But we are not alone in our prayers. We have also with us the power of prayer from the intercession of saints, chief among them being our Blessed Mother. By her "yes" the whole world learned of the saving power of Jesus Christ and it is through her intercession that the whole world might come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ and come to know the workings of the Holy Spirit within us. Whenever we are nourished and strengthen by the Holy Spirit, it is then that we become bold witnesses of God’s love to all people.

 

As spirit-filled evangelizers taking part in the mission of the Body of Christ, we come to realize that our mission to bring people, who belong to God as creatures to Creator, to join the People of God. This means inasmuch as we too are part of that People, that they become part of us and the closeness we share with each other, we must learn to extend in the most personal way to them.  Taking Jesus as our example, we must actually talk with, weep with, eat with, live together with the persons to whom we bring and with whom we share this lived-out gospel message.  It must be done in response to joy, a joy which is diffusivum sui, and not out of a begrudging obligation.  Impelled by this joy, we gain courage to suffer with and engage the messy, painful realities of people’s lives. To evangelize is to be open to and to seek the other’s good.  To love God we must love our neighbor. Our participation in such a mission is eminently worthy of our time and energy, not only because of the people themselves, but because each person is God’s handiwork.  Even if we incarnate the Gospel for just one new person, bettering her or his life, this justifies the offering of my life.

 

It is not easy. Excuses can often get in the way of us acting and doing what we ought to do and what the Spirit invites us and urges us to do. We tell ourselves that we won’t see the results or the fruit of our labor, so we decide it’s not worth it, and do nothing. It becomes difficult to see what we will get out it, so it gets put off, never to be done. We tell ourselves or each other that no matter what we do, nothing is really going to change and everything is going to stay the same regardless, so it’s not really worth the time doing the right thing or doing things the virtuous, Christ-like way. The reality is that the Risen Christ is always at work in all deeds done out of love for God and love for others. No good deed goes unnoticed or unused by God. No act that strives to be in imitation of Christ is wasted. Even what seems to be failure or lack of success is turned into the powerful and transformative. Through it all, the Holy Spirit is at work and in ways we do not and may not understand.

 

Pope Francis concludes this final chapter of Evangelii Gaudium and concludes the exhortation itself by reminding us that we have a model of spirit-filled evangelization in Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She is indeed a spirit-filled evangelizer. “Mary let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith towards a destiny of service and fruitfulness. Today we look to her and ask her to help us proclaim the message of salvation to all and to enable new disciples to become evan­gelizers in turn” (287). She too experiences moments of darkness, fatigue, pain, and confusion, yet she continued with her mission and still followed the workings of the Holy Spirit within her both big and small. Pope Francis reminds us that the “interplay of justice and tender­ness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization” (288).  “We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world” (288).