Pope Francis has been going to great lengths to spread love around the world, and he is quick to tell you that his love comes from the “free and gracious initiative of God,” as he put it in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium.”
The simple truth is that love flows from person to person, or it doesn’t flow at all. It flows using the Gospel in daily encounters, daily opportunities to preach using various techniques.
In the pope’s document, translated as “The Joy of the Gospel,” he writes: “Today, as the church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers.”
The way he explains this is really down to earth.
Pope Francis talks about a certain kind of preaching, that “takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home.” The missionary is always a disciple and is “constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.”
The pope goes on to give us good advice. He says the first step is to engage via a “personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterward is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship.”
The pope continues: “If it seems prudent and if the circumstances are right, this fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives.”
I’m sure that at one time or another you’ve been a disciple to a dear friend. Women minister to other women all the time, on the phone, over the kitchen table. I think women are more intuitive and empathetic than men, but men do open up when the pain of life becomes too much.
You may have noticed that I have not yet used the word “evangelization,” but that’s essentially what’s taking place. Using dialogue, we become actively engaged in evangelization and in spreading love.
“Indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love,” the pope said.