While preaching about St. Paul at morning Mass last Thursday, Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would give Catholics the kind of apostolic zeal that makes them unafraid to “be annoying” as Paul was during his time.
Vatican Radio is reporting that the Pope’s homily focused on St. Paul, in particular his talent for “being a nuisance” and unsettling people who had become too comfortable in their faith with his great apostolic zeal.
Apostolic zeal, implies “an element of madness, but of spiritual madness, of healthy madness,” the pope said, and will have its consequences, such as in persecution, but that’s no reason to be a “backseat Christian.”
“Paul is a nuisance: he is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable, it threatens our comfort zones – even Christian comfort zones, right? It irritates us.”
He continued: “The Lord always wants us to move forward, forward, forward … not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures, no?… And Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance. But he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes: apostolic zeal. . . . He was not a man of compromise. No! The truth: forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward! ”
St. Paul was a “fiery” individual but not only in his character. It was also the fire of his zeal for the Lord who accompanied him everywhere – even to his death.
“Apostolic zeal is not an enthusiasm for power, for possession,” the pope said. “It is something that comes from within, that the Lord wants from us: Christian with apostolic zeal. And where does this apostolic zeal come from? It comes from knowing Jesus Christ. Paul found Jesus Christ, he encountered Jesus Christ, but not with an intellectual, scientific knowledge – which is important, because it helps us – but with that first knowledge, that of the heart, of a personal encounter. ”
St. Paul was “always in trouble, not in trouble for troubles’ sake,” but for Jesus’ sake.
All of us need to pray for this kind of zeal.
“There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church, the grace to go out to the outskirts of life. The Church has so much need of this! Not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ.”
He concluded: “So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, ‘take courage!’ ”
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