Pope Francis said Wednesday that Christians are called to bring the Gospel into the world without becoming worldly.
“For the Church, falling into worldliness is the worst thing that can happen,” the pope said.
Speaking in his general audience in Paul VI Hall on Feb. 15, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ words to his disciples: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep among wolves” (Mt. 10:16).
Many Christians will be tempted to think “let us become relevant, numerous, prestigious, and the world will listen to us and respect us and we will defeat the wolves,” the pope said, but instead, the Lord asks us to “be humble.”
“He asks us to be like this, to be meek and with the will to be innocent, to be disposed to sacrifice. This is what the lamb represents: meekness, innocence, dedication, tenderness. And he, the Shepherd, will recognize his lambs and protect them from the wolves,” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis quoted a homily by St. John Chrysostom in which the late fourth-century Church Father wrote: “As long as we are lambs, we will conquer, and even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will overcome them.”
“But if we become wolves … we will be defeated because we will be deprived of the shepherd’s help. He does not shepherd wolves, but lambs.”
The pope also noted that it is striking that Jesus told his disciples “what not to bring” rather than what to bring on a mission: “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick” (Mt. 10:9-10).
“The Lord makes you lighten your load. … He says not to lean on material certainties, but to go into the world without worldliness. That is to say, I am going into the world, not with the style of the world, not with the world’s values, not with worldliness,” Francis said.
The livestreamed address was the fourth in Pope Francis’ cycle of catechesis on “the passion for evangelization.”
Pope Francis said that the Church is “completely missionary and in the mission it finds its unity.”
“So, go forth, meek and good as lambs, without worldliness, and going together,” he said.
At the end of the audience, Pope Francis asked Catholics not to forget to pray for the people of Ukraine that “their cruel suffering” may soon be over.
He also thanked musicians from a youth orchestra who performed at the general audience and greeted pilgrims who traveled from England, Vietnam, France, Portugal, Italy, the United States, and other countries.
“Inspired by Sts. Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs and co-patrons of Europe, whose liturgical feast we celebrated yesterday, I invite you to witness daily to the Gospel, spreading around you the fragrance of Christ’s charity, which wins hearts over for the good,” he said.