Fr. Franco's Letters

The Flame: January/February 2022

Dear Readers of the Flame,

My parish has recently partnered with an organization called Evangelical Catholic. The purpose of this ministry is to train Catholics to become missionary disciples. From my viewpoint, it is the most thorough type of training available for Catholic laity in parish settings.

One of the daily prayer exercises for those in training with Evangelical Catholic focused on this quote from the encyclical The Mission of the Redeemer by St. John Paul II.
The subject of proclamation is Christ who was crucified, died and is risen: through him is accomplished our full and authentic liberation from evil, sin and death; through him God bestows “new life” that is divine and eternal. This is the “Good News” which changes man and his history, and which all peoples have a right to hear. This proclamation is to be made within the context of the lives of the individuals and peoples who receive it. It is to be made with an attitude of love and esteem toward those who hear it, in language which is practical and adapted to the situation. In this proclamation the Spirit is at work and establishes a communion between the missionary and his hearers, a communion which is possible inasmuch as both enter into communion with God the Father through Christ. (#44, §3)
I found this paragraph an amazing summary of the gospel message, to whom it is to be communicated, how it is to be communicated and what makes it effective. Let me highlight some of its key points.

The heart of the Good News is Jesus Himself, crucified, died and risen who liberates from evil, sin and death.
This fundamental tenet can be easily overlooked. As important as it is to better this world, the message of the gospel focuses on changing people. Genuinely converted people will make the world a better place. They will seek to improve this world because they desire to please their Lord. Also, living for the Lord will keep us from living for the world in a way that is destructive for both the person and the world. Having a hope that is eternal and based on God will keep people from simply striving for more of the world.

All peoples have a right to hear this Good News. We live in an age focused on personal rights.
Do webelieve that each person has the right to hear about Jesus? If they have the right to hear the gospel, it means that we have an obligation to share it with them. As individuals, we do not want to trample on their rights by muzzling our mouths. Also, because people have a right to hear the gospel, governments do not have the right to suppress the gospel.

signs This proclamation is to be made with an attitude of love and esteem toward those who hear it.
We need to approach people with love and esteem. We need to beg the Holy Spirit to give us that perfect love which casts out fear (see I John 4:18). Fear of rejection inhibits our ability to share our faith and makes us overly defensive about it. Love and esteem for people produces a zeal for souls that helps the hearer feel that we really care for them.

It is to be proclaimed in language that is practical and adapted to the situation.
Jesus literally met people where they were at: in their fishing boats (Peter, James and John), at their office (Matthew) and even by the trunk of a tree (Zacchaeus). He spoke to them using stories and images from daily life. If we share our faith using only religious clichés or pious thoughts, we may hurt more than help the cause. We need to bring our faith in Christ to people in ways that connect with them where they are at.

In proclamation the Spirit is at work and establishes a communion between the missionary and his hearers.
Prayer is the key. Prayer keeps us connected with Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Also, intercessory prayer brings God’s grace to work in the hearts and minds of the hearers. If we are genuinely striving to deepen our relationship with the Lord and are praying for those we minister to, God will be at work in their lives before we share, while we share and after we share. The Spirit will create a lifegiving relationship with those we serve. This “communion is possible because both the proclaimer and those receiving the message enter into communion with God the Father through Christ.”

St. John begins his gospel with these words:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

So many people are in the dark about life. Some recognize the absurdity of their situation. Many seem to try to find life through distraction and escape. Others make a god of their work or money or even people.

The goal of evangelization is to bring people back to God, who “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14) He has called us “out darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9)
What we have seen and heard we proclaim now…so that (others) may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ…so that our joy may be complete. (I John 1:3-4)
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to make us effective witnesses of Jesus. We want to brighten up our darkened world.

In Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries