Christ’s good news is for all

  • March 14, 2013

The great mission’s name is Jesus

It’s March 12 and the conclave has opened. It was on that day in 604 that Pope St. Gregory the Great died — his birthday in heaven! It is a good reminder that no matter what the next pope may do or not do, no matter what qualities he may or may not have, his principal task is to lead as many souls to heaven as is possible. Not for nothing do the cardinals cast their ballots before the image of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

The cardinals sang the litany of the saints as they entered the Sistine Chapel, calling on the holy men and women from every time and place to intercede for us. In a particular way, they could ask one of the greatest popes of all times to intercede for them. It was Gregory the Great who gave the Church one of the most beautiful titles we use for the pope: servus servorum Dei — servant of the servants of God. Yes, the new pope will be our shepherd and our teacher. Before all of that, though, he will be a servant to the entire Church. Our servant, if we are trying our best to be servants of God.

While the cardinals are enclosed in the Sistine Chapel, the world waits to hear the words from the balcony: “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus papam! I announce to you a great joy! We have a pope!”

Those famous words can be considered a summary of the Christian life. Consider:
Annuntio. The Christian message is something that needs to be announced. The archangel Gabriel announces the good news to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The angels announce it to the shepherds. Jesus announces the coming of the Kingdom. St. Paul teaches us that in order for people to believe, they must first be told. St. John tells us that we proclaim what we have seen. Yes, we wait for the good news to be announced. But then we must announce it in turn. The new evangelization requires us to be evangelists, that is proclaimers of the Gospel. Each one of us is called to step out, as it were, on to the balconies of our lives and announce the good news that is Jesus Christ!

Vobis. Who is this good news for? It is for everyone. From the central loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, the cardinal protodeacon announces the good news to those in the square, the great arms of which reach out to embrace the whole world. When the pope appears on the balcony, he gives his blessing urbi et orbi — to the city and to the world. The good news of Jesus Christ is for everyone. It is certainly not something we grasp onto and hold onto for ourselves alone. The Church in a certain sense exists for the world and its salvation. The pope that the whole world awaits exists for the whole world in turn. His voice goes out to the ends of the Earth, as the psalmist sings. In these days the whole world’s attention is fixed on Rome. It is a reminder to us that the message handed onto us from the saints is for the whole world. The Church is always on mission, and each Catholic should be on mission too, starting with those closest to us.

Gaudium. Joy! What a blessing it was for the cardinals to celebrate Laetare Sunday — the Sunday of Joy — in their Roman parishes just before the conclave begins. What the Church offers to the world is joy. Joy even amid the manifest sinfulness and suffering that we see all around us, and within us too. The great joy that is announced at the end of the conclave is not just for rare occasions. We enter that joy in our prayer. We encounter that joy in the Holy Eucharist. We encounter that joy in the forgiveness of sins. We encounter that joy in simple grace of being Catholics, together in our families and with our friends. And so the Christian is joyful. We ought to be joyful, which is more than being cheerful, though that is a good start. The first step to sharing our faith with the great “vobis” is to be joyful ourselves. The joyful one attracts others who seek joy, and therefore seek the source of true joy.

Magnum. Great! We proclaim not just an ordinary joy, an adequate joy, a plain joy. We proclaim a great joy. The Jesuits give us that marvelous motto — Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam — For the Greater Glory of God. Christianity is not about making the world slightly better, about making things a little more tolerable, about aspiring to a certain acceptable mediocrity. Benedict XVI reminded us that we are not to tell the world how to become better as much as we are to proclaim the reality of a better world — the kingdom of God already unfolding among us, and the fullness of which we hope to enjoy in heaven. Every man and woman, especially the young, desires some great mission for which to live, some great cause to give his or her life to. That great mission has a name: Jesus Christ. That great cause can be found in His Church!

(Fr. de Souza is the editor-in-chief of Convivium, a Canadian magazine of faith in our common life:

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