By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
IRVING – Citing Pope Francis’ call for members of the church to become missionary disciples who turn away from the temptation of ecclesiastical introversion, Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller delivered the keynote address in front of thousands at the University of Dallas Ministry Conference at the Irving Convention Center on Oct. 24.
“The Holy Father is setting us on a new course of evangelization mission of the church, one which will be marked not only by the joy of the Gospel, which will also fill the hearts and the lives of those who encounter Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Miller said. “Pope Francis invites us to follow the faith to a new season of evangelization, making the Gospel known and loved.”
Archbishop Miller said that invitation is better characterized as an urgent appeal and that Catholics have to decide whether or not they are going to play a role and become missionary disciples themselves. It is the call of every Catholic to be a part of the mission of Jesus Christ, he said.
Calling it a necessary precondition before becoming a missionary disciple, Archbishop Miller said Catholics must first be deeply rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only then can someone evangelize through behavior and words.
Drawing heavily from encyclicals written by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, Archbishop Miller reminded those in attendance that being a Christian is the result of a relationship, not simply an ethical choice.
“[It is the result of] an encounter with a person, an event, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” Archbishop Miller said.
The joy resulting from that encounter is not meant to be kept to ourselves, he said, but to be shared with a world that is crying for the Gospel, and most especially with the poor and the sick.
“The mission of proclaiming the Gospel calls for the personal involvement on the part of every person who has been baptized,” Archbishop Miller said. “Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively involved in the mission of evangelizing.”
Archbishop Miller reiterated Pope Francis’ warning that it is impossible to be a missionary disciple if members of the church are closed in on themselves.
“We know that we are tempted to withdraw into ourselves, shelter ourselves in our sacristies, our church groups, our associations,” Archbishop Miller said. “We close our doors perhaps because we sense our powerlessness in the face of the seemingly insurmountable difficulties in our world. We retreat from evangelizing, from the mission expected of us.”
Quoting Pope Francis, Archbishop Miller said that the Christian hiding in place is committing a slow suicide.
Much like how Pope John XXIII is said to have opened the doors of the church to the world, Archbishop Miller said Pope Francis wants Christians to open their doors to the world because the Gospel is for the whole world.
Using the words of Pope Francis, Archbishop Miller encouraged those in attendance to give a consistent, convincing testimony of the Christian life that attracts.
“What is it, at the end, that we want to bring to the people,” Archbishop Miller asked. “It is the proclamation of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness revealed to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the heart of the Gospel. Everything flows from it.”