Pope Francis holds an audience Sept. 19 with participants in a meeting of pastoral workers about the new evangelization.

CNS PHOTO | TONY GENTILE, REUTERS

Pope Francis holds an audience Sept. 19 with participants in a meeting of pastoral workers about the new evangelization.

October 6, 2014
CAROL GLATZ
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

VATICAN CITY – Bring the Gospel to those who need it most: the poor, the frazzled and the lost, who wander the world without any guidance or protection, Pope Francis told pastoral workers.

Remember that the Church's ministry is like working a field hospital, where the wounded need to be helped and held, and there is no need for laws that only keep people away, he said Sept. 19.

There are "so many people who are hurt and they are asking us to be close. They are asking us the same thing they asked Jesus," to be by their side, he said.

The pope met with more than 2,000 pastoral workers from 60 countries who were at the Vatican for a meeting on The Pastoral Project of Evangelii Guadium, The Joy of the Gospel.

MAIN TASK

The pope said the Church's main task is evangelizing, especially to those most in need of Christ and his good news.

When Jesus went to towns and villages to teach, the pope said, his heart broke seeing the crowds because, according to the Gospel of Matthew, "they were troubled and abandoned like sheep without a shepherd."

"How much poverty and loneliness unfortunately we see in the world today! How many people live in great suffering and ask the Church to be a sign of the Lord's closeness, goodness, solidarity and mercy," he said.

"We don't have a magic wand for everything, but we do have trust in the Lord, who accompanies us and never abandons us."

The pope said the enormous amount of work and demands made on pastoral workers "make us run the risk of becoming frightened and withdrawing in on ourselves out of fear and self-defence.

"And out of that springs the temptation of self-sufficiency and clericalism, that codifying the faith into rules and instructions, which the scribes, Pharisees and doctors of the law did during the time of Jesus."

If pastoral ministry uses the same approach the scribes and Pharisees took, "never, never will we be witnesses of being close" to people like Jesus was.

He warned people working in pastoral ministry against getting too caught up in countless "frenetic series of initiatives" and campaigns.

PRAYER AND REFLECTION

One should not neglect one's spiritual life, he said. "Let's not forget to do like Jesus did" with his disciples. After a long day proclaiming the Gospel, they would go to a quiet place to pray and reflect.

"Pastoral programs without prayer and contemplation will never touch people's hearts. They will stop at the surface never allowing the seed of the Word of God to take root, sprout, grow and bear fruit," he said.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to offering credible testimony with one's life, he said. "Words without witness don't work, they don't help."