10. The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others. When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment. For here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means. Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow.
And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.
Pope Francis' wisdom has been described as homespun rather than academic. This particular paragraph illustrates how people have come to that conclusion as he makes one of his characteristic comparisons. Evangelizers must be, as he said before, people who smile.
He speaks of evangelizing as another way of "giving life away." Evangelizing breaks the bonds of isolation that grip so many lives who squirrel themselves away and fail to share the faith that is theirs. Others have said that faith grows when it is shared; or, again, love is only true when it is given away. The Gospel is about faith, about hope, about love. It is not by accident that these are called the evangelical virtues. However, these gifts – for that is what they are – are not given for ourselves alone. Like all the gifts that St. Paul mentions in his writings, gifts are given to us by God for the service of the community.
Isolation is, as I have said before, one of the sad consequences of chronic illness and disability. Even if one's disability is temporary, it is often something that must be borne alone. So it might be difficult to see how one can be an evangelizer when confronted with the reality of chronic illness or disability. This is one of the reasons why each CUSAN group has a specific intention for which they pray and offer up their pain and frustration. God can then take the graces earned through such suffering and apply it to situations where it is needed.
More than one CUSAN has told me that they have come to see their illness or disability as a gift which gives their lives a purpose. Pope Francis would agree, for it is through patience and resignation that we can become evangelizers even if we must sow in tears.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator