Drawing upon the first-century story of Philip the Deacon, who preached Christ and cured many in the city of Samaria, the Pope noted that the New Testament records that “there was great joy in that city.”
“Every time we hit this expression,” said the Pope to pilgrims in St. Peters Square, “in its essence it conveys a sense of hope, as if to say: it is possible! It is possible that the world will know true joy, because wherever the Gospel arrives, life flourishes, just as a barren land, watered by the rain, immediately revives.”
Essentially, the Pope suggested, Philip and the other disciples did in the villages of first-century Palestine just what Jesus himself had done in their recent past – “preached the Good News and worked miraculous signs” because “it was the Lord who acted through them.”
As it was in that time and place, said the Pope, so it has been down through the centuries of Christian history.
“It is natural to think of the healing power of the Gospel, which over the centuries has ‘flowed’ as a beneficial river, through many populations.”
“Some great saints have brought hope and peace to entire cities - we think of St. Charles Borromeo in Milan, at a time of plague, or Blessed Mother Teresa in Calcutta, and many missionaries, whose name is known only to God, but who gave their lives to the proclamation of Christ and to allow a deep joy to flourish among men.”
“While the powerful of this world were trying to conquer new territories for political and economic interests, the messengers of Christ went everywhere with the aim of bringing Christ to men, and men to Christ, knowing that only He can give true freedom and eternal life.”
And this, concluded the Pope, is still the job of the Catholic Church in the 21st century.
“Even today the vocation of the Church is the evangelization of those people who have not yet been ‘irrigated’ by living the Gospel,” and that includes “those who, despite their ancient Christian roots, need new blood to bring new fruits and rediscover the beauty and joy of faith.”
The Christian Gospel brings a flourishing of life wherever it is embraced. That was the message of Pope Benedict XVI at his midday Regina Coeli on May 29.