Pope Francis stressed this to participants of the 75th Congress of ‘Serra International’ today, Friday, June 23, 2017 in the Vatican. The June 22-25 congress in Rome has as its theme: “Siempre adelante. The Courage of Vocation.”
The Jesuit Pontiff recalled that they were gathered to discover anew the meaning of every Christian vocation: to offer our lives as a gift, and that this made him wish to reflect on something “which is central” to the experience of faith: to be friends.
“Today, the word ‘friend’ has become a bit overused,” the Pontiff said. “In our daily lives, we run into various people whom we call “friends”, but that is just a word we say,” he noted, especially in virtual communications.
“When Jesus speaks of his “friends,” Francis highlighted, “he points to a hard truth: true friendship involves an encounter that draws me so near to the other person that I give something of my very self.”
“We become friends, then, only if our encounter is more than something outward or formal, and becomes instead a way of sharing in the life of another person, an experience of compassion, a relationship that involves giving ourselves for others.”
It is good, the Pontiff noted, for us to reflect on what friends do.
“They stand at our side, gently and tenderly, along our journey; they listen to us closely, and can see beyond mere words; they are merciful when faced with our faults; they are non-judgmental. They are able to walk with us, helping us to feel joy in knowing that we are not alone. They do not always indulge us but, precisely because they love us, they honestly tell us when they disagree. They are there to pick us up whenever we fall.”
He also noted there is a kind of friendship that you seek to offer to priests.
“The Serra Club helps foster this beautiful vocation of being laity who are friends to priests. Friends who know how to accompany and sustain them in faith, in fidelity to prayer and apostolic commitment. Friends who share the wonder of a vocation, the courage of a definitive decision, the joy and fatigue of ministry.
In this way, the way in which Serra often possesses sincere friendship with priests, he noted, is similar to the home of Bethany, where Jesus entrusted his weariness to Martha and Mary, and, thanks to their care, was able to find rest and refreshment.
The Holy Father noted there is another phrase that describes you, namely that which they chose for the theme of their convention: “Siempre adelante! Keep moving forward!”
Like them, the Pontiff noted, I believe that this is a synonym for the Christian vocation.
“For the life of every missionary disciple bears the impress of his or her vocation. Vocation is an invitation to go forth from ourselves, to rejoice in our relationship with the Lord, and to journey along the ways that he opens up before us.”
Of course, he said, we cannot make progress unless we take a risk.
“We do not advance toward the goal if, as the Gospel says, we are afraid to lose our lives (cf. Mt 16:25-26). No ship would ever set out into the deep if it feared leaving the safety of the harbor. So too, Christians cannot enter into the transforming experience of God’s love unless they are open to new possibilities, and not tied to their own plans and cherished ways of doing things.”
On the other hand, he pointed out, when Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s constant surprises.
“A vocation is a calling received from another. It entails letting go of ourselves, setting out and placing ourselves at the service of a greater cause.”
Pope Francis concluded, saying, “with courage, creativity and boldness, do not be afraid to renew your structures. Do not rest on your laurels, but be ever ready to try new things.”