Evangelization must start with encountering Jesus, pope says

 Pope Francis venerating the Cross at the Liturgy of the Lords Passion on Good Friday in St Peters Basilica on April 3 2015 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA Pope Francis venerating the Cross on Good Friday in St. Peter's Basilica on April 3, 2015. | Vatican Media.

Pope Francis on Saturday called for a "free and simple Church" which shares the Gospel without worrying about appearance or profit, but is motivated by an authentic encounter with Christ.

"I would like to tell you very simply: the joy of the Gospel comes from the encounter with Jesus," the pope said.

"When we meet the Lord, we are inundated by that love of which he alone is capable," he said. This love transforms our whole life, and "the need to announce it arises spontaneously, it becomes irrepressible."

Pope Francis spoke Saturday to participants in a Nov. 28-30 international meeting on "Evangelii Gaudium: The Church which goes forth."

The meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, gathered bishops, religious and laity from across the globe to discuss the pope's 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

In his address, which took place in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, the pope pointed to the example of Mary Magdalene, who becomes the first to share the Good News of the Resurrection.

While Mary Magdalene came to the tomb filled with pain and sadness, her encounter with the Risen Lord changed her sorrow into joy, which she in turn shared with the Apostles, the pope said.

"The experience of so many people today is not far from that of Mary of Magdala," he continued. "Nostalgia for God, for an infinite and true love, is rooted in the heart of every man."

Evangelizing means meeting these people in the journey of life, Pope Francis said. Those who evangelize "can never forget that they are always on the road, searching together with the others…He knows no enemies, only traveling companions."

He urged those present not to hold back due to a fear of making mistakes, noting that everyone has weaknesses, but when we prioritize the Good News, we allow God's grace to work through our imperfect efforts.

If we truly believe that God is love, he said, we come to realize that no effort carried out with love and patient generosity on our part will be wasted.

Pope Francis also cautioned against the temptation to discouragement when things do not go as planned.

"Sadness is not a Christian virtue," he said, giving the example of the early Christians who were persecuted yet maintained joy and did not fall into defeatism.

This can be a difficult task, the pope acknowledged, but keeping the proper perspective allows Christians to return again and again to Christ, the source of their hope.

He encouraged them to pray daily to the Holy Spirit that they may maintain "the missionary ardor that makes life a love story with God."

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