By Cindy Wooden and Jamie O’Brien
Sharing the Gospel means being a witness to love, responding to questions and patiently walking alongside people, not dictating how and when they take the next step, Pope Francis has told members of the Neocatechumenal Way.
Some 100,000 members from more than 130 countries – including more than 20 from the Archdiocese of Perth – gathered in a field on the edge of Rome on Saturday 5 May to welcome Pope Francis and celebrate 50 years since the first communities of the adult faith formation itinerary started their journey.
The Neocatechumenal Way aims to guide Catholics and non-Catholics alike via an itinerary of exploring the meaning of their baptism and learning to live according to its promises.
Kiko Arguello, one of the Spanish co-founders, introduced members to Pope Francis – calling out one by one the nations represented and introducing the bishops and cardinals who accompanied many of the groups.
Before sending more than 30 teams on new missions, including to poorer parishes on the ‘peripheries’ of Rome, Pope Francis reminded all the members about the obligation of every Christian to evangelise, and he gave notes on how it should be done.
First, he said, a Christian must never forget that God always loves his children and always keeps his promises.
“Whatever we do, God continues to love us faithfully,” the Holy Father said.
“And when the dark clouds of problems seem to gather around you, remember that the faithful love of God shines always like a sun that never sets.”
To evangelise is to share with others that faithful love of God, he said.
“It is to proclaim that the Lord loves us and will never tire of me, of you, of us and of our world even if we sometimes tire of it.
“Jesus told his disciples to “go out,” Pope Francis said.
“The temptation is strong to stay, to not take risks and to be content with having the situation under control. It’s easier to stay home, surrounded by those who love us, but that is not Jesus’ way.”
The Lord calls Christians to be ‘pilgrims in the world in search of the brother or sister who still does not know the joy of God’s love,” he said.
Being a pilgrim requires traveling light and renouncing comfort, wealth and power, Pope Francis said.
“Only a church that renounces the world can proclaim the Lord well. Only a church detached from power and money, free of triumphalism and clericalism can witness in a credible way that Christ frees a person.”
The Lord also sent his disciples forth together, Pope Francis noted.
“One who is fully missionary does not go alone but goes together.”
And, he said, “Walking together is an art, which must be learned always. One must be attentive, for example, not to dictate the gait of others. But rather, one must accompany and wait, remembering that the journey of the other is not identical to mine.”
In the Neocatechumenal Way’s outreach to others, Pope Francis said, members must be sensitive to the individual needs of the people they are inviting.
“What counts are not arguments that can convince, but a life that can attract,” Pope Francis told them. It is not “the ability to impose, but the courage to serve.”
And, he told them, be humble.
“Don’t put in first place the negative aspects and things that need to change, but look with your hearts, with a gaze that appreciates, an approach that respects and a trust that is patient.”