Pope Francis and the Witness of Charity In this Year of Faith
By Sister Therese Touma, from a paper submitted for her studies at Boston College
"In this Year of Faith, the People of God have also been urged to witness to their faith through increasing their practice of charity. In seeing to our neighbor’s needs, we are serving and loving Christ himself, this is powerful. “As you did it to one of the least of these brethren, you did it to me.”(Mt 24:40) Consequently, all Christians by the nature of their baptism are invited and challenged by the Gospel to carry the light and healing of Christ to all those who are in need especially to those who are broken, suffering and poor. It is through this call to love Christ that we are to reach out in humility and care for our neighbor by helping them in their physical needs, and journey of faith. I have witnessed and seen in my own ministry, the great impact of living a disposition of self-giving love, hospitality and forgiveness, especially when it comes to cultivating openness and dialogue in relationships. On the other hand, I also believe that if we truly desire to grow in holiness and intimacy with Jesus then our desire to reach out in love will grow and intensify, even amidst all confusion, poverty and persecution. We learn from Jesus, who was meek and humble of heart that the focus is always on loving and bringing humanity to salvation. I too perceive that the focus of the New Evangelization is on loving our neighbor (where they are at) and upholding their sacred dignity as son or daughter of God.
In the task of the New Evangelization, the witness of charity, joy and holiness assists people to visibly see that the living and transmission of the Catholic faith can be affective in bringing many others to the everlasting fountain of God’s healing love and grace. Without being conformed to him in love, without the presence of the Spirit, it is impossible to confess him as Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:3) and recognize (and serve) him in the other. Charity can take many forms, on an individual and parish level, such as cultivating; a sense of hospitality, welcome, compassionate love, friendships, and service to those in need in the community especially in reaching out to those who have drifted away from the faith. Each baptized person, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit has an essential role to play in sharing and making known the saving love of Christ.
Pope Francis, in his charismatic being and witness of charity has put his own unique twist on the New Evangelization as he models by his compassionate (and fatherly) deeds the need to “go out” and serve the poor, oppressed and the marginalized. In his “going out” he is mirroring the missionary identity of the church, and showing us what the church is not about, maintenance. Pope Francis’ solicit care and promotion for social justice is a powerful and silent proclamation of his faith and love of Christ. According to Dulles, personal witness is the most effective form of evangelization as “people today put more trust in witnesses than teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission.” It is refreshing to see the New Evangelization in action through the humble works and missionary efforts of Pope Francis. He is effectively saying this is how it is done; follow me in going out of yourselves so that we can effectively build up the Body of Christ together."