(Vatican Radio) The Church must proclaim the Gospel "in poverty" and the people proclaiming it must have the sole aim of alleviating the miseries of the poor, never forgetting that this service is the work of the Holy Spirit and not of human hands.
At Mass on Thursday morning in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis returned to one of his favorite images for the Church – that of a field hospital- inspired by the Gospel of the day, in which Jesus sends his disciples out, two by two, to the villages to preach, heal the sick and drive out "unclean spirits".
Pope Francis said that there are many “wounded” waiting in the aisles of the Church for a minister of Christ to heal, raise and liberate them from the demons that plague them. He added that Christ’s ministers must always remember, however, that they are simple “servants of the Kingdom”.
Healing wounded hearts
The Pope contemplated Jesus’ description of the attitude his disciples must have as he sends them out among the people. They must be people with no frills attached - “no food, no sack, no money in their belts" he tells them - because the Gospel, "must be proclaimed in poverty" as "salvation is not a theology of prosperity". It is purely and simply the "good news" of liberation brought to all who are oppressed:
"This is the mission of the Church: the Church that heals, that cares [for people]. I sometimes describe the Church as a field hospital. True, there are many wounded, how many wounded! How many people who need their wounds to be healed! This is the mission of the Church: to heal the wounded hearts, to open doors, to free [people], to say that God is good, God forgives all, that God is our Father, God is tender, that God is always waiting for us ... ".
Apostolic zeal, not NGO activism
Pope Francis warned that distracting attention from the essential nature of this proclamation creates the risk of misrepresenting the Church's mission and losing sight of the only thing that matters: bringing Christ to the poor, the blind, the prisoners:
"It’s true, we have to help and create organizations that help in this: yes, because the Lord gives us the gifts for this. But when we forget this mission, forget poverty, forget the apostolic zeal and instead, place our hope in these [human] means, the Church slowly slips into becoming an NGO, it becomes a beautiful organization: Powerful, but not evangelical, because it lacks that spirit, that poverty, that power to heal".
Disciples "Workers of the Kingdom"
Pope Francis concluded that the disciples return "happy" from their mission and so Jesus took them with him "to rest for a while". However, Pope Francis stresses ...
"... He does not say to them: ‘How great you are great, now on your next mission you should be better organized ...'. Only: 'When you have done all you have to do, say to yourself:' We are useless servants'. This is the apostle. And what would be the most beautiful praise for an apostle? 'He was a worker of the Kingdom, a worker of the Kingdom'. This is the greatest praise, because it means he has chosen Jesus’ path of proclamation: He goes to heal, to safeguard, to proclaim this good news and this year of grace. So that people rediscover the Father, to foster peace in the hearts of the people".