The Vatican

Pope Francis: "Everything begins with the gaze of Jesus".

Pope Francis began a new cycle of catechesis today during the general audience. The theme he will address during the coming months is apostolic zeal.

Paloma López Campos-January 11, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Pope audience January 11

The Pope during the audience on January 11.

Pope Francis held a general audience today in the Paul VI Hall. After greeting the faithful gathered there, he announced the beginning of a new cycle of catechesis, focused on "the passion for evangelization, that is, apostolic zeal".

Referring to this zeal, the Pope mentioned that it is "a vital dimension for the Church. The community of the disciples of Jesus, in fact, is born apostolic, missionary". The Holy Father immediately pointed out that the attitude missionary is not proselytizing, "one has nothing to do with the other", the Pope wanted to emphasize.

The need to evangelize

Francisco points out that the Holy SpiritFrom the outset, he has shaped a Church that goes out "so that it does not turn in on itself, but is outgoing, a contagious witness of Jesus.

"It can happen," warns the Pope, "that apostolic zeal, the desire to reach out to others with the good proclamation of the Gospel, diminishes." "There are Christians closed in on themselves, who do not think of others, but when Christian life loses sight of the horizon of proclamation it becomes ill," says Francis.

When the Church loses her passion for evangelization, "faith withers. Mission, however, is the oxygen of Christian life, it invigorates and purifies it". To kindle this apostolic zeal, Pope Francis announces that during this cycle of catecheses he will delve deeper into the Scripture and then he will take as a reference people who have lived the evangelizing mission, "so that they can help us to fan the fire that the Holy Spirit wants to make burn in us always".

Matthew's example

To begin his catechesis, Francis looked first of all at the Gospel passage describing Matthew's call. "Everything begins with Jesus," the Pope points out. Matthew was a despised man, a traitor, a publican. "But in the eyes of Jesus, Matthew is a man, with his miseries and his greatness." The Holy Father invites us to realize that "Jesus does not look for adjectives, Jesus always looks for nouns".

"While there is a distance between Matthew and his people," he continues, "Jesus draws near to him, because every man is loved by God". Christ thus shows us that "this gaze that sees the other, whoever he may be, as a recipient of love, is the beginning of the Gospel passion. Everything starts from this gaze".

The Pope invites us to ask ourselves "how we look at others, how often we see the defects and not the needs". "Jesus looks at everyone with mercy and predilection," says Francis, and we must learn from his example.

"Everything begins with the gaze of Jesus," the Pope points out. Christ, calling Matthew, "sets him on the move towards others, makes him leave a position of supremacy to put him on a par with his brothers and open to him the horizons of the service". This idea is fundamental for Christians, for we must know how to "get up, set out on the road towards others, seek others".

The first thing that happens once Matthew responds to Christ's call is that the tax collector returns home, welcoming the Master, but "he returns changed and with Jesus. His apostolic zeal does not begin in a new, pure and ideal place, but there where he lives, with the people he knows".

Announce, today, now

"We should not expect to be perfect," says Francis, "and to have come a long way behind Jesus in order to bear witness to him. Our proclamation begins today, where we live". This mission of proclamation, moreover, "does not begin by trying to convince others, but by bearing witness every day to the beauty of the love that has looked upon us and lifted us up".

It is essential to remember, Pope Francis warns, "that we proclaim the Lord, we do not proclaim ourselves". "The Church grows, not by proselytizing, but by attraction", the Holy Father repeats, because those who "proselytize do not have a Christian heart".

"This witness attractive and joyful is the goal to which Jesus leads us with his gaze of love and with the outward movement that his Spirit arouses in our hearts". Francis concludes the audience by asking us to assess whether our gaze resembles that of Christ.

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