Addressing the religious communities of Korea, Pope Francis urged a deep reliance on the mercy of God and a focus on community life in transmitting the joy of the Gospel to the world.
“Only if our witness is joyful will we attract men and women to Christ,” the Holy Father told a gathering of religious brothers and sisters in South Korea.
“And this joy is a gift which is nourished by a life of prayer, meditation on the word of God, the celebration of the sacraments and life in community,” he explained. “When these are lacking, weaknesses and difficulties will emerge to dampen the joy we knew so well at the beginning of our journey.”
Pope Francis met Aug. 16 with religious communities of Korea at the Training Center “School of Love” in Kkottongnae. The meeting came during the Pope’s Aug. 13-18 visit to South Korea, with coincided with the Sixth Asian Youth Day. Earlier during the trip, he met with youth from across Asia and beatified 124 Korean martyrs at a Mass attended by an estimated 1 million people.
Thanking the religious communities of Korea for their efforts to build the Kingdom of God, Pope Francis observed that religious life is a great gift that enriches the Church.
He called the religious to reflect on the central role that joy must play in their lives.
“The firm conviction of being loved by God is at the center of your vocation: to be for others a tangible sign of the presence of God’s Kingdom, a foretaste of the eternal joys of heaven,” he said.
Although this joy is manifest differently in various situations, it always endures despite difficulties, because it is “rooted in the mystery of the Father’s mercy revealed in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross,” the pontiff explained.
The religious are therefore called to become “experts in divine mercy” through their community life, he continued.
“From experience I know that community life is not always easy, but it is a providential training ground for the heart. It is unrealistic not to expect conflicts; misunderstandings will arise and they must be faced,” he said. But despite these challenges, “it is in community life that we are called to grow in mercy, forbearance and perfect charity.”
“The experience of God’s mercy, nourished by prayer and community, must shape all that you are, all that you do,” the Pope emphasized, pointing to the religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience as “a joyful witness to God’s love” when they are properly rooted in his mercy.
“Mature and generous obedience requires that you cling in prayer to Christ who, taking the form of a servant, learned obedience through what he suffered,” Pope Francis remarked. “There are no shortcuts: God desires our hearts completely and this means we have to ‘let go’ and ‘go out’ of ourselves more and more.”
Chastity, he continued, “expresses your single-minded dedication to the love of God who is ‘the strength of our hearts.’” Acknowledging that this commitment is both personal and demanding, he advised “humble trust in God, vigilance and perseverance” to fight temptation in this area.
The vow of poverty allows religious brothers and sisters to “recognize God’s mercy not only as a source of strength, but also as a treasure,” the Pope said, encouraging them to offer even their weary hearts, burdened by sin, to Christ in moments of helplessness.
“This fundamental need of ours to be forgiven and healed is itself a form of poverty which we must never lose sight of, no matter how many advances we make in virtue,” he added.
The Holy Father cautioned against distractions and sandal, while noting that poverty in consecrated life is both a “wall” of protection and a “mother” that guides along the right path.
“The hypocrisy of those consecrated men and women who profess vows of poverty, yet live like the rich, wounds the souls of the faithful and harms the Church,” he said.
Pope Francis also warned against the temptation “to adopt a purely functional, worldly mentality which leads to placing our hope in human means alone and destroys the witness of poverty which our Lord Jesus Christ lived and taught us.”
Calling the religious to an awareness of their role in shaping future vocations, he urged them to “do all that you can to show that the consecrated life is a precious gift to the Church and to the world. Do not keep it to yourselves; share it, bringing Christ to every corner of this beloved country.”
“Whether you are given more to contemplation or to the apostolic life,” he said, “be zealous in your love of the Church in Korea and your desire to contribute, through your own specific charism, to its mission of proclaiming the Gospel and building up God’s people in unity, holiness and love.”