By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Mercy and mission have a close relationship that calls all Christians to be missionaries who share the joy of the Gospel without trying to force others to believe, Pope Francis said.
The joy that comes from conveying God’s love and mercy is “the concrete sign that we have met Jesus,” the pope said during his first jubilee audience Jan. 30. However, he added, “this does not mean proselytizing. This is making a gift: ‘I am giving you what gives me joy.'”
An estimated 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the jubilee audience, an event that will be held one Saturday each month throughout the Holy Year of Mercy.
In his talk, the pope said the Holy Year is a reminder for Christians to never tire of feeling the need for God’s forgiveness “so that when we are weak his closeness makes us strong and allows us to live our faith with greater joy.”
Christians are called to be missionaries of the Gospel like the first disciples, feeling the need to share the good news they have received. “We feel within us that we cannot hold back the joy that has been given to us and we want to spread it,” the pope said. “The joy that arises is what pushes us to communicate it.”
The experience of the first disciples called by Jesus, he said, is an experience of love that “transforms us and compels us” to share its strength with others.
“In some way, we can say that from the day of our baptism each one of us was given an additional name to what our moms and dads had given us and this name is ‘Christopher,’ which means ‘Christ-bearer.’ Every Christian is a bearer of Christ,” he said.
God’s mercy is not just a “private consolation” but a catalyst that transforms Christians into “missionaries of mercy” to those in need. The pope called on the faithful to take their calling seriously and to live their lives as believers “because only then can the Gospel touch the hearts of all people and open them to the grace of love.”
Before concluding the jubilee audience, Pope Francis led the crowd in praying for a woman named Elvira who, along with her husband, worked at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope’s residence. The long-time employee passed away Jan. 29 after a long period of sickness, the pope said.
Saying his residence is like a family, the pope told the crowd that he was sad at her passing.
“I invite you today to do two works of mercy: to pray for the deceased and console the afflicted,” he said. “I invite you to pray a Hail Mary for Elvira’s eternal peace and eternal joy, and pray that the Lord may console her husband and her children.”