by Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholics, especially members of religious orders, are called to be bold, creative and consoling “missionaries without borders,” Pope Francis said.
Meeting May 26 with members of the general chapter of the Don Orione Sisters, the pope said focusing on the call to reach out to others and share the Gospel with them is what helps Christians stop being preoccupied with their own worries and concerns.
“Mission and service to the poor put you in the position of going out and help you overcome the risks of being self-referential, of limiting your concerns to survival and of defensive rigidity,” the pope told the sisters.
Those engaged in mission and evangelization, at home or abroad, must be “bold and creative,” the pope said. “The comfortable criteria of ‘it’s always been done this way’ won’t work. It won’t work.”
Modern societies and new forms of poverty pose new challenges, particularly for religious orders with a specific mission of evangelization and care for the poor, he said. “We are living in a time when it’s necessary to rethink everything in light of what the Spirit is asking us.”
The first step, he said, is to see and truly listen to the people one is assisting and evangelizing. The key is to use “the gaze of Jesus, which is the gaze of the Good Shepherd, a gaze that does not judge, but seeks out the presence of the Lord.”
Following Jesus’ example means drawing near to people for a close-up view and staying with them as long as necessary, he said. It also means having a gaze that is “respectful and full of compassion, one that heals, frees and comforts.”
The Year of Mercy, which ended in late November, was a call to Catholics to “clean our eyes and our hearts of indifference” and to proclaim to the world “prophecy of mercy with humility, as servants,” he said.
“Your charism of serving the poor requires you to exercise the prophecy of mercy, that is to be people centered on God and on the crucifixes of this world,” Pope Francis told the sisters. “Allow yourselves to be moved by the cries for help that come from so many situations of pain and suffering. As prophets of mercy proclaim the forgiveness and embrace of the Father, source of joy, serenity and peace.”