By Cindy Wooden
Sharing the Gospel requires literally “going out,” witnessing to the joy of faith in person and not just sitting at home, being “keyboard warriors” who argue with others online, Pope Francis has said.
“One does not proclaim the Gospel standing still, locked in an office, at one’s desk or at one’s computer, arguing like ‘keyboard warriors’ and replacing the creativity of proclamation with copy-and-paste ideas taken from here and there,” the Holy Father said on 12 April during his weekly general audience in St Peter’s Square.
Holding the audience during the Octave of Easter, with tens of thousands of daffodils and tulips still decorating the square, Pope Francis continued his series of audience talks about “evangelical zeal,” looking at how that differs from pretending to share the Gospel while really just seeking attention or pushing one’s own ideas.
At the end of the audience, before leading prayers for peace in Ukraine, Pope Francis noted that 11 April was the 60th anniversary of St John XXIII’s Encyclical, Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”).
The encyclical, he said, offered humanity “a glimpse of serenity in the midst of dark clouds” of high tension between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The document, published in 1963, is as relevant as ever, Pope Francis said, reading one line as an example: “Relations between states, as between individuals, must be regulated not by armed force, but in accordance with the principles of right reason: the principles, that is, of truth, justice and vigorous and sincere co-operation.”
In his main talk, Pope Francis focused on the need for missionary disciples to be ready to set out and to be open to exploring new paths as they seek to share the Gospel through word and deed.
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis told people in the square, “I exhort you to be evangelisers who move, without fear, who go forward to share the beauty of Jesus, the newness of Jesus, who changes everything.”
The Holy Father imagined someone replying to him that, “Yes, father, he changed the calendar because now we count years as ‘before Jesus'” and after.
But, even more, Pope Francis said, Jesus “changes one’s heart.”
“Are you willing to let Jesus change your heart?” he asked those in the crowd. “Or are you a lukewarm Christian, who doesn’t move? Think about it a bit. Are you enthusiastic about Jesus and go forward? Think about it.”
“A herald is ready to go and knows that the Lord passes by in a surprising way,” the pope said, so one cannot be “fossilized” by human calculations about what is likely to be successful or by thoughts that “it has always been done this way.” Being a missionary disciple means “not letting pass by the opportunities to promulgate the Gospel of peace, that peace that Christ knows how to give more and better than the world gives.”