To anyone paying attention during this nearly two years of Pope Francis’ papacy, he or she has learned by now that one of Pope Francis’ favorite documents is an Apostolic Exhortation by Blessed Pope Paul VI known as Evangelii Nuntiandi; On Evangelization in the Modern World.
I highly recommend reading this document as a part of your Lenten journey. If you do not own a copy, you can find it on the Vatican website here. I am rereading the document myself, and it is absolutely clear about the mission of the Church. I quote just two paragraphs below as food for thought about just where the Lenten journey of conversion is leading us to:
9. As the kernel and center of His Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One, in the joy of knowing God and being known by Him, of seeing Him, and of being given over to Him. All of this is begun during the life of Christ and definitively accomplished by His death and resurrection. But it must be patiently carried on during the course of history, in order to be realized fully on the day of the final coming of Christ, whose date is known to no one except the Father.[MT 24:36, Acts 1:7, 1 Thess 5:1-2]
10. This kingdom and this salvation, which are the key words of Jesus Christ’s evangelization, are available to every human being as grace and mercy, and yet at the same time each individual must gain them by force – they belong to the violent, says the Lord,[MT 11:12; Luke 16:16] through toil and suffering, through a life lived according to the Gospel, through abnegation and the cross, through the spirit of the beatitudes. But above all each individual gains them through a total interior renewal which the Gospel calls metanoia; it is a radical conversion, a profound change of mind and heart.[MT 4:17]
Where is the Lenten journey of conversion leading? To Jesus Christ. To the Church. To the Kingdom of God. To Salvation “from everything that oppresses man.”
This Lent, let us give ourselves completely over to Christ. As we do this, let us remember and believe that the Church is completely inseparable from Christ, as Blessed Paul VI also says in his Apostolic Exhortation:
16. There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her.
It is certainly fitting to recall this fact at a moment like the present one when it happens that not without sorrow we can hear people – whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their attitude – continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: “Anyone who rejects you rejects me.”[Luke 10:16] And how can one wish to love Christ without loving the Church, if the finest witness to Christ is that of St. Paul: “Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her”?[Ephesians 5:25]
Let us be converted to Christ and live!