At his first general audience on March 27 in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis repeated a phrase worth remembering and living: “Go out!”
A few days before Easter, our new Holy Father was reflecting on what it means to live our faith during Holy Week, and in a deeper sense, to walk with Jesus every day of our lives. Pope Francis said:
“Living Holy Week is always going deeper into God’s logic, into the logic of the Cross, which is not first and foremost a logic of sorrow and death but one of love and the self giving that brings life. It is entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following, accompanying Christ, staying with him when he asks that we ‘go out’: out of ourselves, out of a tired and habitual way of living the faith, out of the temptation of locking ourselves in our own schemes that wind up closing the horizon of God’s creative action….
“Holy Week is a time of grace that the Lord gives us to open the doors of our hearts, of our lives, of our parishes…of our movements and associations, to ‘go out’ and meet others, to draw near them and bring them the light and joy of our faith. To always go out with the love and tenderness of God!”
Those two words – “Go out!” – summarize our call to the New Evangelization, to deepen our Catholic faith, to grow in confidence and be strengthened in its truth, and share it with others. Notice how Pope Francis emphasizes that to “go out” as witnesses of Jesus means that we “meet others” and “draw near them and bring them the light and joy of our faith.” We must do it with love, always with love, God’s gift to us.
During his March 31 Urbi et Orbi Easter blessing to the city of Rome and to the world, Pope Francis spoke about the need to share the joy and new life of the risen Christ, with those we love, and with those who are suffering: “What a joy it is to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons….Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin or of evil! Love has triumphed! Mercy has been victorious! God’s mercy always triumphs!”
Jesus, our risen Lord, offers us hope, he offers us love, he offers us mercy, and that love, as our Holy Father says, has triumphed over sin and death, and it can triumph over any sufferings, disappointments or misunderstandings in our lives that may have distanced ourselves and others from Christ.
As Catholics, we must move beyond the misconception that evangelization is something that other Christian denominations do. Jesus himself establishes evangelization as being of the very nature and essence of the Church when he gives his disciples the commission to evangelize, to announce the good news “to all the nations (Matthew 28:19)” and to spread the Gospel by going forth “into the whole world (Mark 16:15).”
Jesus calls us personally to share his love with others. Our Lord is not looking for bystanders – he calls us to be his witnesses, to walk in his love and his friendship every moment of our lives – through our actions as well as our words. For most of us, this call to evangelize won’t involve ringing doorbells or handing out pamphlets; rather, it should be a matter of living and sharing our faith in the quiet moments of our everyday lives, at home, at work, in the community, maybe even on the sidelines of a soccer field or the checkout line at the supermarket. We all know family members and friends who have drifted from the faith or never heard about it, and whose lives could be transformed and made new by Christ.
So in this Easter season – indeed, in every season – let us heed Pope Francis’ words: “Go out” and bring Christ’s love and life to the poor and forgotten who are our brothers and sisters. “Go out” and share the Good News of the risen Lord with our family members and friends, share Jesus who brings us new life and eternal life, our Savior who can transform hearts and change the world. Go out!