VATICAN—Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has encouraged people not to be intimidated by the concept of “evangelization,” but to remember that it can be a simple human interaction or conversation among friends, family, coworkers, or social-media followers.
“Sometimes we make things very complicated—‘evangelization.‘ It is a conversation. It is a conversation about Jesus,” Tagle said in his recent closing remarks for the Vatican’s priesthood conference.
“Simple human interaction or conversation centered on the Word of Life that fosters unity, I think needs to be encouraged in our time, especially in families, schools, workplaces, recreation centers, hospitals, social media, during coffee break, and simple gatherings of friends,” he said.
Tagle, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, was asked to give the closing speech on February 19 for a three-day Vatican conference on the theology of the priesthood.
Pope Francis opened the conference with a reflection on his more than 52 years of priesthood.
In a very animated speech, Tagle said that “mission forms community, which, in turn, becomes the flame that fires up other missionaries.”
The cardinal shared that one of the youth delegates at the 2018 Synod of Bishops on young people had told him that her friends’ experience of the Church was of priests who were “angry, impatient, unapproachable” and who “criticize persons during homilies and talk always about rules.”
Tagle added that hearing testimonies like this prompted him to reflect on the joy in the lives of the baptized.
“There are many reasons why we feel tired, empty and joyless. But I asked myself: Is it possible that one reason for the loss of joy in a baptized person or a minister of the church is the lack or weakening of the sense of mission?” he said.
“Without a commitment to mission, the priesthood of the baptized or consecrated life and the ministerial priesthood are deprived of joy. Why? Because the priesthood of Christ is intrinsically linked to his mission.”
Tagle’s speech marked the end of the live-streamed summit “For a Fundamental Theology of the Priesthood,” which took place from February 17 to 19 in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. The symposium was first announced in April 2021.
Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, organized the meeting together with the France-based Research and Anthropology Center for Vocations.
The third and final day of the conference was dedicated to “Celibacy, charisms and spirituality.”
“The priesthood of Jesus is completely missionary and continues to be so for He intercedes eternally for His brothers and sisters before the Father in the heavenly sanctuary,” Tagle said.
“Jesus’ priesthood is a wholly missionary life. Remove mission, there will be no joy, no joy, in those who share in the priesthood of Christ in baptism, in other states of life, and in the ministerial priesthood.”
Tagle reflected on Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John: “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”
“The ones Jesus loves are the ones He sends,” Tagle noted. “Dangerous love. The more He loves you, the more He sends you.”
The 64-year-old cardinal from the Philippines said that being called to “belong to Jesus and share in his mission” is not a matter of “creating or promoting one’s own project, but of participating in God’s salvific plan in the missions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.”
“It is the joy, not of inventing one’s message, but of proclaiming what one has heard, seen, looked upon and touched of the word of life. It is the joy, not of boasting of one’s knowledge of the Lord, but of humbly being led by the Holy Spirit’s testimony to Jesus,” he said.
“It is the joy, not of being obsessed with achievements, degrees—‘Oh, I have a doctorate, you only a master’s degree. I deserve the cathedral. You deserve a village parish.’—That’s not joy. It’s obsession with achievements,” Tagle pointed out.
“It is the joy of gratitude to Him who makes weak and sinful disciples strong by His grace. We wish every baptized Christian would experience the joy of being a disciple missionary,” he said.
Courtney Mares/Catholic News Agency via CBCP News
Image credits: Eric Paul Guan Lao/Manila Cathedral