Rome (Agenzia Fides) - The proclamation of the Gospel does not mean "standing on a balcony and shouting out Jesus’ name, but rather going down onto the streets, going to the places where one lives, frequenting the spaces where one suffers, works, studies and reflects, inhabiting the crossroads where human beings share what has meaning for their lives". The salvation that Christ brought can only be witnessed by inhabiting "the crossroads of today", while "leaving them would impoverish the Gospel and reduce the Church to a sect". This is what Pope Francis has said repeats the words of the Apostle Paul that today is the "favorable time" to bear witness to Christ. And that this testimony can only happen in the real world, as it is today, without closing oneself to foreign worlds or to live in the memory of the past. He did this at the general audience this Wednesday, November 29th, continuing the cycle of catechesis dedicated to the passion for evangelization: the apostolic zeal of the believer. At the beginning of the Audience, Pope Francis informed the pilgrims and faithful gathered in Paul VI Hall that the text of the catechesis would be read in his place by Prelate Filippo Ciampanelli, an employee of the Secretariat of State, due to his state of recovery after his health problems in past days.
The first part of the catechesis described the scenario of today's times and the dominant culture that determines people's lives. A time in which "one almost always hears bad things being said about today", marked by "wars, climate change, worldwide injustice and migration, family and hope crises", dominated "by a culture that puts the individual above all else and technology at the centre of everything". We find ourselves - the Pope insisted in his examination - appears as the "the first civilization in history that globally seeks to organize a human society without the presence of God, concentrated in huge cities that remain horizontal despite their vertiginous skyscrapers". The world today - continued Pope Francis' catechesis - has many features that bring to mind the story of the city of Babel and its tower, told in the book of Genesis". This biblical story also seemed to proclaim "a social project that involves sacrificing all individuality to the efficiency of the collective". A model of society in which "humanity speaks just one language, we might say that it has a “single way of thinking”, and is "as if enveloped in a kind of general spell that absorbs the uniqueness of each into a bubble of uniformity. Then God confuses the languages, that is, He re-establishes differences, recreates the conditions for uniqueness to develop, revives the multiple where ideology would like to impose the single. The Lord also distracts humanity from its delirium of omnipotence". Even today - the Pope recognized in his catechesis today - "cohesion, instead of fraternity and peace, is often based on ambition, nationalism, homologation, and techno-economic structures that inculcate the persuasion that God is insignificant and useless: not so much because one seeks more knowledge, but above all for the sake of more power". In all of this –Pope Francis continues, referring to his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium", "Jesus can be proclaimed only by inhabiting the culture of one’s own time; and always taking to heart the words of the Apostle Paul about the present: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”. Given the challenges and also the evils of today, it does not make sense to "contrast today with alternative visions from the past. Nor is it sufficient to simply reiterate acquired religious convictions that, however true, become abstract with the passage of time. A truth", continued the papal catechesis, "does not become more credible because one raises one’s voice in speaking it, but because it is witnessed with one’s life". And “apostolic zeal is never a simple repetition of an acquired style, but testimony that the Gospel is alive today here for us”. That's why it's worth "looking at our age and our culture as a gift". And living in today's times also helps "us Christians to understand in a renewed way the reasons for our hope, to extract and share from the treasure of faith “what is new and what is old”. In short, instead of transforming today's world, Pope Francis said in his catechesis, again quoting Evangelii Gaudium, "we need to convert the world of today, we need to convert pastoral care so that it better incarnates the Gospel in today. Let us make Jesus’ desire our own: to help fellow travellers not to lose the desire for God, to open their hearts to Him and find the only One who, today and always, gives peace and joy to humanity". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 29/11/2023)