Faith Requires Being a True Neighbor
IN his homily concluding the 2018 Synod on the Youth, Pope Francis noted that a key step on the journey of faith is “to be a neighbor.” We observe that when Jesus engages people in the Gospel, he goes to meet them personally. He directly asks them to express their needs: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk 10:51).
For Pope Francis, in particular situations, “this is how God operates. He gets personally involved with preferential love for every person. By his actions, he already communicates his message. Faith flowers in life. Faith passes through life…. Faith is life: it is living in the love of God who has changed our lives.”
Francis believes that engaging the youth of today demands this same pastoral approach. “We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to him, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters [today’s youth]. Closeness: that is the secret to communicating the heart of the faith.” Such intimate encounters are necessary to attract youth to the Church today.
Go Out! Bring Jesus! Pope Francis also emphasized that genuine faith is always a “missionary faith,” a faith that actively goes out to others. “It is not Christian to expect that our brothers and sisters [the youth in particular] who are seekers should have to knock on our doors; we ought to go out to them, bringing, not ourselves, but Jesus.”
As Christians, we realize that Jesus “sends us, like his disciples, to encourage others and to raise them up in his name. He sends us forth to say to each person: ‘God is asking you to let yourself be loved by him’.” We need to go out and bring Jesus! We must act as “the community of the saved who dwell in the joy of the Lord”!
Faith Demands “Good Neighborology”! Continuing his final homily closing the Synod on the Youth, Pope Francis asserted that “Being a neighbor means bringing the newness of God into the lives of our brothers and sisters.”
“Let us ask ourselves whether, as Christians, we are capable of becoming neighbors, stepping out of our circles and embracing those who are not ‘one of us,’ those who God ardently seeks.” When we are tempted to remain inward looking, to wash our hands, to avoid involvement, we should follow Jesus’ example; “we want to imitate Jesus and, like him, to dirty our hands.”
“Let us realize that the Lord has dirtied his hands for each of one of us…. He became my neighbor…. And when, out of love of him, we too become neighbors, we become bringers of new life…, witnesses of the love that saves.”
Conclusion. The Church needs good theology, clear and helpful teaching on the truths of our faith. Concomitantly, our Church also needs good neighborology, serving the needy, lonely, poor, sick, and elderly in our midst. Good neighborology in practice will attract the youth of today to Jesus and the Church.