Pope Francis Talks about Witness, Missions, Prayer and the Father drawing people to Jesus 30.04.20
That restlessness that this gentleman had in reading the prophet Isaiah was precisely of the Father, who drew him to Jesus (cf. John 6:44): he had prepared him, had taken him from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to worship God, and then, with this reading, he had prepared his heart to reveal Jesus, to the point that as soon as he saw the water he said, "I can be baptized" (cf.36). And he believed.
And this - that no one can know Jesus without the Father attracting him (cf.44) - this is valid for our apostolate, for our apostolic mission as Christians. I'm also thinking about missions. "What are you going to do in missions?" – "I, convert people" – "But stop, you will not convert anyone! It will be the Father who attracts those hearts to recognize Jesus." To go on a mission is to bear witness to one's faith; without witness you will do nothing. Go on a mission – and the missionaries are good! – does not mean making great structures, things ... and stop like this. No: the structures must be witness. You can make a hospital structure, educational of great perfection, of great development, but if a structure is without Christian witness, your work there will not be a work of witness, a work of the true proclamation of Jesus: it will be a charitable society, very good – very good! – but nothing more.
If I want to go on a mission, and I say this if I want to go to the apostolate, I must go with the willingness that the Father will draw people to Jesus, and this is what witness is. Jesus himself said this to Peter, when he confesses that He is the Messiah: "Blessed are you, Simon Peter, because the Father has revealed this to you" (cf. Mt 16:17). It is the Father who attracts, and also attracts with our testimony. "I will do many works, here, here, there, of education, of this, of the other ...", but without witness, they are good things, but they are not the proclamation of the Gospel, they are not places that give the possibility that "the Father will attract to the knowledge of Jesus" (cf. John 6:44). Work and witness.
"But what can I do for the Father to bother to attract those people?" Prayer. And this is prayer for missions: to pray that the Father will draw people to Jesus. Witness and prayer, they go together. Without witness and prayer, you cannot do apostolic proclamation, you cannot proclaim. You will give a good moral sermon, you will do many good things, all good. But the Father will not have the opportunity to draw people to Jesus. And this is the centre: this is the centre of our apostolate, that "the Father can attract people to Jesus" (cf. John 6.44). Our witness opens the doors to the people and our prayer opens the doors to the Father's heart to attract people. Witness and prayer. And this is not only for missions, it is also for our work as Christians. Do I bear witness to Christian life, really, with my way of life? Do I pray that the Father will draw people to Jesus?
This is the great rule for our apostolate, everywhere, and especially for missions. Going on a mission is not proselytizing. Once, a lady – a good lady, you could see that she was of good will – approached with two children, a boy and a girl, and said to me: "This boy, Father, was Protestant and converted: I convinced him. And this girl was ..." - I don't know, animist, I don't know what she said to me - "and I converted her". And the lady was good: good. But she was mistaken. I lost my patience a little and said, "But look, you have not converted anyone: it was God who touches people's hearts. And don't forget: witness, yes; proselytizing, no."
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to live our work with witness and prayer, so that he, the Father, may draw people to Jesus.
This is what happened to this Minister of the Economy of the Queen of Ethiopia. You can see that he was a pious man and that he took the time, in so many of his affairs, to go and worship God. A believer. And he returned to his home reading the prophet Isaiah (cf. Acts 8:27-28). The Lord takes Philip, sends him to that place, and then says to him, "Go and draw near to that chariot" (v.8:29), and he hears the minister reading Isaiah. He approaches and asks him a question: "Do you understand?" – "And how could I understand, if no one guides me?" (v.31), and asks the question: "Who is the prophet talking about?" "Please get in the carriage," and during the journey – I don't know how long, I think that at least a few hours, Philip explained: he explained Jesus.
"No one can come to me if the Father does not attract him" (John 6:44): Jesus remembers that even the prophets had foretold this: "They will all be taught by God" (John 6:45). It is God who attracts to the knowledge of the Son. Without this, you cannot know Jesus. Yes, you can study, even study the Bible, even know how he was born, what he did: that yes. But knowing him from within, knowing the mystery of Christ is only for those who are attracted by the Father to this.
Let us pray today for the dead, those who died in the pandemic; and also in a special way for the deceased – who let's say are anonymous: we have seen photographs of common graves. Many are there.