The Pope at the audience: Evangelization obliges us to follow unexpected paths
During Wednesday’s general audience, Pope Francis begins a new cycle of catechesis on themes from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, highlighting the issues facing Christian communities in Galatia.
By Fr. Benoît Mayaki, SJ
Pope Francis began a new cycle of catechesis on Wednesday during the General Audience, devoted to the themes proposed by the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians.
In the Epistle, the Pope noted, Saint Paul makes numerous biographical references which allow us to understand his conversion and his decision to put his life at the service of Christ. It also touches on important topics such as freedom, grace, and the Christian way of life – topics that “touch on many aspects of the life of the Church in our time”.
The Holy Father underlined that this is an important and decisive letter, not only to get to know Saint Paul better, but above all to show the beauty of the Gospel.
Saint Paul’s work of evangelization
The first feature of the Letter to the Galatians, underlined the Pope, is the “great work of evangelization” of the Apostle who visited his communities at least twice during his missionary journeys.
Providing some context to the letter, Pope Francis explained that although it is uncertain what geographic area Paul was referring to, or when he wrote the letter, the Galatians were an ancient Celtic population. which settled in the vast region of Anatolia, with Ancyra as its capital (now Ankara in Turkey).
In this region, Saint Paul says he was forced to stay because of illness, the Pope said. However, Saint Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, provides spiritual motivation, noting that “they passed through the region of Phry’gia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia” (Acts 16: 6).
Explaining further, the Holy Father said that these two facts are not contradictory because they indicate that “the path of evangelization does not always depend on our will and our plans, but requires a will to let us be shaped and to follow other paths that were not planned.
“What we are seeing,” the Pope continued, “is that in his tireless work of evangelization, the Apostle has succeeded in founding several small communities scattered throughout the region of Galatia.”
Pastoral concern in the midst of a crisis
Pope Francis then underlined Paul’s pastoral concern when, after founding the Churches, he discovered that some Christians from Judaism had begun to sow theories contrary to his teaching.
These Christians argued that even Gentiles should be circumcised according to Mosaic law, and by implication the Galatians should renounce their cultural identity in order to submit to the norms and customs of the Jews. In addition to this, these opponents of Paul claimed that Paul was not a true apostle and therefore had no authority to preach the gospel.
Pope Francis noted the uncertainty that filled the hearts of the Galatians in the midst of this crisis, especially as they had come to know and believe that the salvation brought by Jesus was the beginning of a new life, despite their history that was entangled in slavery, including the one that subjected them to the Emperor of Rome.
Not far from today
Bringing the situation back to the present, Pope Francis noticed the presence of preachers who, especially through new means of communication, present themselves as “keepers of the truth” on the best way to be a Christian, instead of announcing the ‘Gospel of Christ.
He lamented that these preachers forcefully assert that true Christianity is the one they adhere to – a Christianity often identified with the past – and propose as a solution to today’s crises, a return to the past “so as not to lose. the authenticity of the faith.
Today too, as then, added the Pope, “there is a temptation to lock in some of the certainties acquired in past traditions”.
Emphasizing that the teaching of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Galatians “will help us to understand which path to follow”, the Holy Father underlined that it is about the “liberating and ever new way of Jesus, crucified and risen. “.
“It is the path of proclamation, which is accomplished in humility and fraternity; it is the path of gentle and obedient trust, in the certainty that the Holy Spirit is working in the Church in every age ”, declared the Pope.