Last Advent, I was very blessed to be part of a group of writers who reflected each day on part of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). When I was asked to be part of this by my friend Kelly Wahlquist, I admit, I didn’t really know what an Apostolic Exhortation was. But I learned quickly that it is essentially a personal plea from the Holy Father to us, the Church. Pope Francis is inviting us to put first things first and to remember that above all, we are missionaries called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in whatever corner of the world we live in. This task is not just for priests and religious, college professors and Bible scholars. This task is for everyone, including moms and dads, grandparents, single aunts and everyone in between. This task includes women and men, young and old.
Pope Francis is inviting us to be part of something spectacular: the New Evangelization. He is sharing his vision as Pope and his joy for the Gospel, and he is asking, “Won’t you come along?”
So, throughout Advent, we read and prayed and reflected with Pope Francis and other faithful Catholics. My reflection first posted on Dec. 7, 2013. I just re-read it this morning, and thought, “Wow! I really needed to read that!” You see, I am having a really hard time this Advent. I am having a hard time focusing on Jesus, preparing my heart and being filled with the joy and peace that I long for this season. I am paralyzed with anxiety and overcome with perfectionism. I can tell anyone else to trust, to let go, but when it comes to telling myself, I get stuck and give in to the lies that I am not doing enough and that I am not enough.
Reading our Papa tell me that “perfection is not possible,” perhaps I can listen to him. Like a spiritual father, perhaps I can trust his words as truth and coming directly from God.
So, for what it’s worth, I’m re-posting my reflection as part of Allison’s #WorthRevistWednesday series, for those who might be feeling a bit overwhelmed two weeks before Christmas … as much as I’m reposting it for myself!
In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us—the People of God, the Church—that first and foremost we are missionaries called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to whatever corner of the world we live in. This calling is not just for priests and religious, college professors and Bible scholars. This calling is not just for those selected to literally go to the ends of the earth. This calling is for all of us—moms and dads, business professionals, retirees and everyone in between. Each of us is invited to be part of something ever-new and always exciting!
And this, my friends, is incredible!
And at the same time, this can be challenging. (And maybe even a little scary, too.)
Such a good thing can appear challenging and scary, because as ordinary, everyday lay Catholics, we may feel inadequate and unversed. We may wonder how our simple, normal lives can possibly be missionary and evangelistic. But they can be … and they are! Because God is calling each and every one of us to partake in a mission that is “above and beyond [our] faults and failings” (44).
As a stay-at-home mom of six children, my primary goal is to love my husband, and together help our children enter Heaven someday. “It is in the bosom of the family that parents are ‘by word and example … the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children’” (CCC 2204; LG 11). Right there in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I am given my mission field: my family.
As a mom, I do many different tasks. I cook, clean, read aloud, snuggle, nurse the sick, wipe away tears, and make hot chocolate. The most important things I do involve passing on the Catholic Faith to my children—by attending Mass, frequenting the sacraments, teaching them to pray, introducing them to the saints, and celebrating feast days and holy seasons within our domestic church.
Some of my tasks I do quite well, and others … not so much. In my mission, I am faced with my own limitations more often than I’d like to admit. But in all the trial and error, triumphs and failures, God allows my “shoes [to] get soiled by the mud of the street” more than once, so that I can realize that “perfection is not possible” (45).
What is possible is love and joy and faith. What is possible is taking “a small step, in the midst of great human limitations, [which] can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties” (44). No matter what our calling—whether priest, scholar, business man or homemaker—God is inviting us to step out in faith, to proclaim the Good News to our corner of the world. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it doesn’t have to be deep. In fact, “variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel” (40). All it has to be is you. You, “expressing unchanging truths in a language which brings out … abiding newness” (41).
With “the expression of truth [taking] different forms” (42), I bet Pope Francis would encourage us to make sure of one thing: keeping it simple. “The precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God ‘are very few’ … ‘so as not to burden the lives of the faithful’” (43). I think this is a wonderful concept to ponder, as we close this first week of Advent. Within our vocation, within our own call to evangelize, Pope Francis is reminding us of very few precepts, small steps and limits. How merciful and gentle is our God!
What small step can you make to embrace your role as missionary in your corner of the world? What few things are you doing, either alone or with your family, to keep Advent simple this year?