“The Word of God calls us to live in unity, that the world might believe.” With these words, Pope Francis set the theme of evangelization within the context of Jesus’ prayer for unity at the Last Supper, during his homily for Mass at Bicentennial Park in Quito, Ecuador.
Evangelization, he said, does not consist in “grand words, or complicated concepts” but in the “joy of the Gospel.” When Jesus prayed for unity, in the night before His Passion and Death, He was experiencing “the worst of this world, a world He nonetheless loved dearly.” In our day, too, we are often confronted with a world “torn apart by wars and violence.” But it would be a mistake to imagine that division and hatred occur only between groups of people or countries. “Rather they are a manifestation of the ‘widespread individualism’ which divides us and sets us against one another.” In response, the Pope said, we must take up “the cry of Jesus” and accept “the grace and challenge of being builders of unity.”
Evangelization, he continued, can be a way to unite “our hopes, concerns, ideals, and even utopian visions.” The desire for unity “involves the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, the conviction that we have an immense treasure to share, one which grows stronger from being shared.” Evangelization does not mean proselytizing, forcing our beliefs on others, but rather “attracting by our witness those who are far off.” Evangelization means constantly fostering communion, not only outwardly, but also within the Church.
Pope Francis emphasized that this communion must flow from our personal encounter with Christ, which leads us to encounter others in order to lead them to Christ. This unity in Christ, he said, does not result in uniformity, but rather in a “multi-faceted and inviting harmony.” Jesus prays that all of us might be part of “a great family in which God is our Father and all of us are brothers and sisters.” This unity makes us part of the divine life of God, and this, the Pope said, “is the salvation which God makes possible for us, and which the Church proclaims with joy: to be a part of the divine ‘we’.”
In Bicentennial Park, commemorating two hundred years of independence for Ecuador, Pope Francis linked the call to evangelization to “the original cry for freedom in this country.” He said the cry of St Paul – “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” – is “a cry every bit as urgent and pressing as was the cry for independence. It is similarly thrilling in its ardour. May each of you be a witness to a fraternal communion which shines forth in our world.” It is when we give of ourselves, he concluded, that “we discover our true identity as children of God in the image of the Father and, like him, givers of life; we discover that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, to whom we bear witness. This is what it means to evangelize; this is the new revolution – for our faith is always revolutionary –, this is our deepest and most enduring cry.”