We are very familiar with today’s feast and readings.
Saul encounters the Risen Christ on the way to Damascus. The one he thought to be dead was alive.
I always enjoy that passage by the end of the Acts of the Apostles when Festus presents to King Agrippa the case of Paul saying:
“His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive” (Act 25: 18 – 19)
It is this experience of the Risen Christ that marks his life, that makes a change.
Though this experience becomes key in his life, the main thing is that Paul remains one with the Risen Christ. His life is not just built on an experience of the past.
The same thing applies today.
The first thing you find in Evangelii Gaudium is Pope Francis’s call to each one of us to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ – today – so that we do not build our lives just on an experience of the past.
It is a very beautiful and clear call:
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. (EG 3)
Benedict XVI referred to it when – in Caritas in veritate – he wrote:
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
Our Pastoral plan is about evangelization. It says:
“To EVANGELISE is to do what Jesus did and what Jesus is still doing. It is announcing something new, important and life changing, such as telling good news, bringing the truth about the Father who loves us all, bringing hope, creating joy, being a channel of the grace and power of God to change us and our world, opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and uniting ourselves with the Son.” (Page 8)
This is only possible if we remain missionary disciples being daily with the one that is alive because it not just doing what Jesus did but being Jesus’ witnesses.
In fact presenting the focal area of evangelisation the pastoral plan says:
“Our own experience of faith, of growing in it and of sharing it with others, begins with hearing about Jesus and coming to know him personally. This personal relationship with Jesus is fundamental to the pastoral plan, and all other areas flow from it.” (Page 21)
As Pope Francis says: “No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her” and therefore it applies to each one of us bishops, priests and laity
It is interesting to see how many times we try to make sure “priests know”, “priests are on board”, “priests support” but risking that they themselves lack this foundation.
“Spiritual direction” might have become a strange word or expression for many of us bishops and priests, that making sure our lives are not just built on a call from the past but on the constant presence of the One who called us.
I remember an event where one of the priests gave a lovely talk on the cross, on trusting God and never feeling it is the end of the road when facing difficult times.
As I listened to him I wondered ifit was his own experience of faith or if he was preaching ideas, good things all of them, but not his own experience – today – of the Lord’s presence and journey with him.
The daily encounter with Jesus should permeate the whole text and implementation of the pastoral plan.
Today’s passage, just before the official launching of the pastoral plan, is a reminder of the one and only foundation of who we are and what we are called to do. The foundation that would make you and me ask ourselves – like Paul – “what shall I do Lord?”