The Pope's guide to understanding our mission

By Steve Atherton, Justice and Peace fieldworker

The last two months of this column have been about Pope Francis's latest apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad). Since then, I've read a copy of Bishop John Arnold's recent address to the Catenians in which he explains the consistency of the Pope's message to us as it appears in his papal documents. Bishop Arnold says that Pope Francis is describing to us how we should be disciples.

The first letter apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), reminds us that we are all 'missionary disciples'. We can't just leave it to the priests and the religious brothers and sisters. The Church must put the poor at the centre of its concern. We've got to sort ourselves out and be the Church for the modern world. In our parishes we've got to make sure that we pass on the faith and look after each other; being friendly will make us strong. Our parishes must look outwards because the mission of the Church is in the world and we are called to be missionary disciples.

The second letter, Laudato si' (On care for our common home), is known as the encyclical about the environment and climate change but it's much more than that. It's about our common home and how we care for it. It's about what makes our home good, how we treat our fellow creatures, how we build the places we live, the way we work and, especially, how we care for the poor and the marginalised. It describes our missionary territory.

The third exhortation, Amoris laetitia (The Joy of Love), is considered a letter about marriage but it's really about the power of relationships, whether in marriage or with the old people or the children we look after. We are never alone. We are to cherish our relationships because that's where the power of love builds and grows. That's the sort of missionary disciples we are to be.

Finally, in Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis tells us how we are to find the strength to be these amazing missionary disciples tirelessly engaged with the world. It's simple: be holy! He tells us what to avoid and what to cultivate in order to develop individual holiness. It's not by becoming Saint Teresa of Calcutta or Saint Francis of Assisi but by becoming more truly ourselves.

We each have our individual mission that hasn't been given to anyone else. We must love the world, our common home; we must love others; and we must let God be active in all our relationships.