Pope Francis meets with priests, religious, consecrated men and women, seminarians and catechists in Bangkok, and shares guidelines on how to achieve apostolic fruitfulness, and on what it means to be a Christian.
The Pope began by expressing his gratitude “for all those consecrated persons who, by the silent martyrdom of fidelity and daily commitment, have borne great fruit.” He also gave thanks “for all those catechists and elderly consecrated men and women who drew us into the love and friendship of Jesus Christ.”
The history of each of our vocations “is marked by those people who helped us discover and discern the fire of the Spirit”, said Pope Francis, which is why it is so important to be thankful. “Gratitude is always a powerful weapon”, he continued: “Standing on their shoulders, may we too feel called to be men and women who help bring about the new life the Lord bestows on us.”
Pope Francis invited those present to “be alert to beauty, to a sense of wonder capable of opening up new horizons and raising new questions.” A consecrated life “incapable of openness to surprises is only a half a life”, he said. The Church does not grow by proselytizing but by attraction: these words of Benedict XVI, said Pope Francis, are prophetic for our times. “Let us not be afraid to continue inculturating the Gospel”, he added. “We need to seek new ways to transmit the Word that is capable of mobilizing and awakening the desire to know the Lord.”
Talking “in dialect”
Pope Francis suggested we find ways “to talk about the faith ‘in dialect’, like a mother who sings lullabies to her child.” With that same intimacy, “let us give faith a Thai face and flesh, which involves much more than making translations”, he said. We need to let the Gospel “sing” with the native music of this land, “and inspire the hearts of our brothers and sisters with the same beauty that set our own hearts on fire.”
Turning to Mary as our example, Pope Francis said her gaze “impels us to turn our eyes to that other gaze and to do whatever He tells us.” Jesus’ gaze captivates because it penetrates and shatters appearances: “Where many saw only a sinner, a blasphemer, a tax collector, an evildoer or even a traitor, Jesus was able to see apostles”, said the Pope.
What it means to be a Christian
Pope Francis noted how many vocations begin by going out “to visit the needy, the neglected and even the despised, orphans and the elderly.” In the faces of those we encounter on the street, said the Pope, “we can discover the beauty of being able to treat one another as brothers and sisters. We see them no longer as orphans, derelicts, outcasts or the despised. Now each of them has the face of a brother or sister redeemed by Jesus Christ. That is what it is to be a Christian!”
“Can holiness be understood apart from this lively recognition of the dignity of each human being?” asked the Pope. He acknowledged that many of those present “manage to see beauty where others see only contempt, abandonment or an object of sexual gratification. In this way, you are a concrete sign of the Lord’s mercy, alive and at work”, he said, “a sign of the anointing of the Holy One in these lands.”
Fidelity to prayer
Pope Francis then spoke of the importance of prayer: “Apostolic fruitfulness is sustained by fidelity to deep prayer”, he said. “How many of us have received the faith from our grandparents, from seeing them doing their household chores, rosary in hand, sanctifying their entire day.” This is contemplation in action, said the Pope, “making God part of the little things of each day. Without prayer, our life and mission loses all its meaning, strength and fervour.”
“Immersed in myriad responsibilities, may we always seek that quiet place where we can remember, in prayer, that the Lord has already saved the world and that we are asked, in union with Him, to make this salvation felt by all.”
Pope Francis concluded by inviting those present to think of themselves as “little tools in the Lord’s creative hands. He will be writing with your lives the finest pages of the history of salvation in these lands.”