Message by Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi
“This is the joy of the Church: to evangelise”. This was a constant refrain in the words of Pope Francis in Malta, particularly in his homily in Gozo, in front of the Ta’ Pinu Shrine. Some may have missed the play on the word “joy”, which in Spanish, the Pope’s native language, is “gozo”.
Pope Francis emphasised that we are called to return to the origins, in order to renew our faith and common mission. He explained that “going back to the origins” basically means rediscovering the essentials of our faith. It does not mean looking back and trying to replicate the ecclesial life of the first Christian community. We cannot ignore history, as if the Lord never said or accomplished great things in the life of the Church in later centuries. Nor does it mean being too idealistic, thinking that there were no difficulties and problems in the Early Church; on the contrary, we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples argued among themselves, and that they did not always understand the Lord’s teachings. Going back to the origins means, instead, recovering the spirit of the first Christian community, rediscovering the core of the faith: our relationship with Jesus and the preaching of his Gospel to the whole world.
After Pentecost, the chief concern of the disciples of Jesus was not the prestige of the community or its ministers, its social standing, or the fine points of its worship. Full of the Holy Spirit, their mission was to preach and bear witness to the Gospel of Christ. In the words of Pope Francis: “A faith made up of received traditions, solemn celebrations, popular festivals and powerful and emotional moments cannot be enough; we need a faith built upon and constantly renewed in the personal encounter with Christ, in daily listening to his word, in active participation in the life of the Church and in authentic popular piety”. We need to ensure that religious practices do not get reduced to relics from the past, but remain the expression of a living, open faith that spreads the joy of the Gospel.
Going back to the origins means, instead, recovering the spirit of the first Christian community, rediscovering the core of the faith: our relationship with Jesus and the preaching of his Gospel to the whole world
We should strive to be a Church concerned about friendship with Jesus and the preaching of his Gospel, not about importance and image; a Church centred on witness, rather than religious customs; a Church that seeks to go out to meet everyone with the burning lamp of the Gospel, not to be a closed circle.
Going back to the origins also means developing the art of welcoming. The worship of God takes place through closeness to our brothers and sisters. We are called to welcome each other, heal each other’s wounds, and lovingly care for those who experience the pain of life.
May we help each other to return to the essence of Christianity: the love of God, the driving force of our joy, which sends us forth to the world; and the love of our neighbour, which is the simplest and most attractive witness we can give to the world. In this way, we keep going forward together in the journey of life, always remembering that the joy of the Church is to evangelise.
✠ Joseph Galea-Curmi
This article was first published the magazine of the Catenian Associaton.