Pope Francis in Colombia: True freedom is found in courageous discipleship
Catholic News Agency Sep 9, 2017
On Saturday, Pope Francis said that true freedom is found in letting go of the superficial things we cling to for security, embracing instead a discipleship which has the courage to follow Jesus in living in the fullness of the law. “For the Lord, as also for the first community, it is of the greatest importance that we who call ourselves disciples not cling to a certain style or to particular practices that cause us to be more like some Pharisees than like Jesus,” the Pope said Sept. 9.
Pope Francis celebrated Mass at Enrique Olaya Herrera Airport in Medellin Saturday morning. Huge crowds – estimated at more than 1 million people – attended the Mass, which took place during the Pope’s Sept. 6-11 visit to Colombia.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on three attitudes that he said must form our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. The first is going to what is essential. “This does not mean ‘breaking with everything’ that does not suit us,” he said, “because Jesus did not come ‘to abolish the law, but to fulfil it’ (Mt 5:17); it means to go deep, to what matters and has value for life.”
In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us that discipleship requires a relationship with God – not merely following rules or exhibiting outward actions without really changing your heart, he said. “Discipleship must begin with a living experience of God and his love. It is not something static, but a continuous movement towards Christ; it is not simply the fidelity to making a doctrine explicit, but rather the experience of the Lord’s living, kindly and active presence, an ongoing formation by listening to his word.” And hearing this word, we live it out in serving the concrete needs of our brothers and sisters, he explained.
The second attitude disciples are called to adopt is renewal, which Francis said the Church is always in need of – “Ecclesia semper reformanda.” The Church doesn’t renew herself on “her own whim,” but firm in the faith and following the hope of the Gospel. And this requires sacrifice and courage, “not so that we can consider ourselves superior or flawless, but rather to respond better to the Lord’s call,” he stated. The Church must be ‘shaken’ by the Holy Spirit in order to let go of comforts and attachments, but we shouldn’t be afraid of renewal, the Pope noted.
In Colombia, for example, he said this renewal is needed in the many situations of violence, which can be transformed by Jesus’ reconciliation and peace.
The third attitude of a disciple is the willingness to get our hands dirty and get involved in helping our brothers and sisters, the Pope said. We are called to be brave, to have “that evangelical courage which springs from knowing that there are many who are hungry, who hunger for God, who hunger for dignity, because they have been deprived.”
As Christians, we must help others to satisfy this hunger, to encounter Christ, we can't put up “do not enter” signs, he said. “The Church is not ours, she is God's; he is the owner of the temple and the field; everyone has a place, everyone is invited to find here, and among us, his or her nourishment.” Jesus told his disciples to give the hungry crowd something to eat, which is our call, too, the Pope emphasized.
He pointed out that St. Peter Claver, whose feast day is celebrated by the Church Sept. 9, understood this well. In the 1600s, the Spanish missionary cared for the spiritual and physical needs of slaves in modern-day Colombia. “‘Slave of the blacks forever’ was the motto of his life, because he understood, as a disciple of Jesus, that he could not remain indifferent to the suffering of the most helpless and mistreated of his time, and that he had to do something to alleviate their suffering,” Francis said.
Referencing the gathering of Latin American bishops at Aparecida in 2007, he said that the Church in Colombia “is called to commit itself, with greater boldness, to forming missionary disciples.” As it says in the document from that gathering, Colombia needs disciples who know how to see, judge and act, he said.
“I have come here precisely to confirm you in the faith and hope of the Gospel. Remain steadfast and free in Christ, in such a way that you manifest him in everything you do; take up the path of Jesus with all your strength, know him, allow yourselves to be called and taught by him, and proclaim him with great joy,” he concluded.
“Let us pray through the intercession of Our Mother, Our Lady of Candelaria, that she may accompany us on our path of discipleship, so that, giving our lives to Christ, we may simply be missionaries who bring the light and joy of the Gospel to all people.”