Evangelii Gaudium: Out of the Comfort Zone

If we take joy in the Gospel, if it truly is Good News, we’ll want to share it. More than that, Jesus gave us a positive and specific command just before his ascension: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” In paragraph 20 of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis says this:

In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth”. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.

This is a universal call to all Catholics; it’s not just for those who are good at talking to others or who are especially holy. Jesus didn’t limit his call, and Pope Francis doesn’t either. But I notice a few things about it.

First, it’s a call to make “disciples”. A disciple is a person who is voluntarily subject to a teacher’s discipline: a person who changes his way of life because he wants to. It’s possible to coerce someone to pretend to convert; it’s impossible to coerce someone to be a disciple. Coercion is therefore ruled out from the beginning.

Second, it’s a call to leave our comfort zones. The implication is that if we’re living in our comfort zones we aren’t doing enough. I’m not sure how far that goes; as you leave your comfort zone, often enough your comfort zone expands. If you let it expand far enough, you’ll have to enter the danger zone to leave your comfort zone, and I doubt that everyone is actually called to that (and certainly not parents with small children). But for most of us, that’s a theoretical concern.

Third, it’s a call to reach those places in need of the light of the Gospel. Sky diving is well outside my comfort zone, but unless I’m trying to evangelize sky divers there’s no much point in my going there just to leave my comfort zone. Put the effort where it is needed.

Each of these points raises its own challenge. To go to the peripheries, to places in need of the Gospel, I first need to identify those that I can reach. To leave my comfort zone, I have to ask what I could be doing that I’m not, and what it would take to make it happen.

But ultimately, the call is to make disciples…and to make disciples you first need to be a disciple. And that’s the most important challenge: Are we disciples? What does it mean to be a disciple? And if we are not, how do we become disciples?

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