Aleteia

Pope Francis: The Church Must Be Brave and Speak Boldly

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Today’s homily from Santa Marta

VATICAN CITY — The Church must be brave and speak boldly, Pope Francis said Monday morning in his homily at Holy Mass in the Vatican's Chapel of Santa Marta.

But just as the Apostles experienced after the Lord’s Resurrection, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires true “boldness” to proclaim Jesus Christ and the truths of His Church.  

“We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”, Pope Francis said, quoting today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:20), where Peter and John ask the Lord to enable them to speak freely and boldly.

Speaking boldly, without fear

The Pontiff recalled that Peter and John, having performed a miracle, were jailed and threatened by the priests not to speak in the name of Jesus. But the two go ahead and when they return to the brethren they encourage them to proclaim the Word of God “with boldness”. And they asked the Lord “to look upon their [enemies’] threats” and grant “to grant to his servants to speak his word with all boldness” and not to run away.

“Even today the Church’s message is a message of the path of boldness, of Christian courage. These two men, as the Bible tells us, who without instruction, had courage. It is a word that may be translated as ‘courage’, ‘boldness’, ‘freedom to speak’, ‘not being afraid to say things’ … It is a word that has many meanings, in the original language. Parresìa, boldness … and from fear they passed to boldness, to saying things with freedom,” Pope Francis said.

He then reflected on today’s Gospel passage which recounts “the somewhat mysterious dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus” regarding a “second birth” and “having a new life, different from the first.”

Evangelize, don’t advertise

The Pope emphasized that, also in the Gospel, “in this itinerary of boldness”, the “true protagonist” is “the Holy Spirit, “for He is the only One capable of giving us this grace of courage to proclaim Jesus Christ.”

“This courage to proclaim is what distinguishes us from simple proselytism. We do not advertise, Jesus Christ says, to have more ‘members’ in our ‘spiritual society’. This is useless. It’s useless; it’s not Christian. What the Christian does is proclaim with courage, and the proclamation of Jesus Christ provokes — through the Holy Spirit — that wonder and astonishment that keeps us going.”

The true protagonist of all of this, Pope Francis repeated, is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus speaks about “being born from above”, He makes us understand that it is “the Spirit who changes us, who comes from anywhere, like the wind: we hear his voice,” he said. “Only the Spirit is able to change our attitude”, to “change the story of our lives, to change our being.”

Courage: a grace that comes from the Holy Spirit

The Pope said that it is the Spirit who gives Peter and John, “these simple, uneducated men … the strength to proclaim Jesus Christ unto the final witness: martyrdom.”

“The path of Christian courage is a grace given by the Holy Spirit. There are so many paths we can take, which also give us a certain amount of courage. ‘Look at that brave decision he has taken! And look at this one: look how he laid out this plan well, organized things, well done!’ This helps, but it is an instrument of something greater: the Spirit. If there is no Spirit, we can do many things, much work, but it is useless.”

After Easter, Pope Francis said, the Church “prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit.” In conclusion, he therefore prayed: “In the celebration of the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, may we remember the entire history of salvation” and “ask for the grace to receive the Spirit that he might give us true courage to proclaim Jesus Christ.”

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.