Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father
...To evangelize is to account to everyone for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15).
The contemporary world, frequently scarred by injustice and selfishness, nonetheless shows surprising concern for the defence of the weak and the poor. Among Christians, in recent years, a longing for solidarity has been recorded, a longing which spurs to a more effective witness to the Gospel of charity. However, love and service to the poor must not lead to underestimating the need for faith, bringing out an artificial separation in the Lord’s one commandment, that invites us to love both God and our neighbour simultaneously.
The Church’s commitment… cannot be reduced merely to organizing structures of hospitality and solidarity. This attitude would impoverish the riches of the ecclesial vocation, called in the first place to transmit the faith, which is strengthened when it is given to others (Redemptoris missio, n. 2). At the end of our life we will be judged on love, on the acts of charity we have done to the “least” of our brothers and sisters (cf. Mt 25:31-45), but also on the courage and fidelity with which we have witnessed to Christ. In the Gospel he said: “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33).
For the Christian, every activity has its beginning and its end in Christ: the baptized person acts, spurred by love for him, and knows that even the effectiveness of his actions springs from belonging to him: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). In imitation of Jesus and the Apostles, who follow up the preaching of the kingdom by concrete signs of its fulfilment (Acts 1 :1; Mk 6:30), the Christian evangelizes by words and deeds, both the fruit of faith in Christ. Actions, in fact, are his “active faith”, while words are his “eloquent faith”. Since there is no evangelization without, in consequence, charitable actions, there is no authentic charity without the spirit of the Gospel: they are two intimately linked aspects.
“Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). The true pastor, even when he is harassed by enormous practical problems, never forgets that [the weak and the poor] have need of God and that many seek him with a sincere heart. Like the disciples of Emmaus, however, their eyes are often incapable of recognizing him (cf. Lk 24:16). They should therefore also be offered a presence which, guiding and listening to them, makes the Word of God resound, makes their hearts beat with hope and guides them to the meeting with the risen Christ. This is the Church’s missionary path: to go to meet women and men of every race, tongue and nation with friendship and love, sharing their conditions in an evangelical spirit, to break the bread of truth and charity for them…
...The events of the Apostle Paul as told in Acts testify that, guided by the firm conviction that salvation is in Christ alone, he was totally dedicated to taking every opportunity to proclaim the Messiah. He lived this commitment as a duty: “For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). Indeed he was aware of the right of those whom he was addressing to receive the saving proclamation…
...In the light of what will happen on Calvary, we understand that the lifting up on the Cross is the condition for the glorification of Christ with the Father and with mankind, and that only the dynamism of the paschal mystery completely fulfils men’s desire to see him and to communicate with him. The Church is called to establish an intense dialogue with humanity, not only to transmit authentic values to them, but above all to reveal Christ’s mystery, because only in him does the person reach his truest dimension. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32). This “drawing”, integrates us into the communion of charity and, making us capable of forgiveness and reciprocal love, achieves authentic human advancement.
Aware of being the place where people must be able “to see Jesus” and experience his love, the Church fulfils her mission by striving to offer, in the logic of the Cross, an ever more convincing witness of the gratuitous, unlimited love of the Redeemer, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13).
Excerpted from Pope John Paul II’s Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 1997, 21 August 1996