“If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord,” said Pope Francis during his morning Mass at the Vatican on May 16.
“We can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church,” he said at the chapel of the Saint Martha residence, where he lives.
He celebrated the Mass alongside Cardinal Peter Turkson and Bishop Mario Toso, the president and the secretary of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace.
Council staff and employees from Vatican Radio were among those attending the Eucharistic celebration.
The Pope preached on today’s first reading from Acts 22 and contrasted “backseat Christians” with those who have apostolic zeal.
“There are those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal,” he stated.
The pontiff said apostolic zeal “implies an element of madness,” which he labeled as “healthy” and “spiritual.”
He added that it “can only be understood in an atmosphere of love” and that it is not an “enthusiasm for power and possession.”
Pope Francis also dwelt on St. Paul’s actions in the reading from Acts.
“Paul, in preaching of the Lord, was a nuisance, but he had deep within him that most Christian of attitudes, apostolic zeal,” he stated.
“He was not a man of compromise, no!” he exclaimed. “The truth, forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ, forward!”
The Pope noted that St. Paul’s fate was one “with many crosses, but he keeps going, he looks to the Lord and keeps going.”
“He is a man who, with his preaching, his work, his attitude irritates others, because testifying to Jesus Christ and the proclamation of Jesus Christ makes us uncomfortable.
“It threatens our comfort zones, even Christian comfort zones, right?” he asked the congregation. “It irritates us.”
Pope Francis underscored that the Lord “always wants us to move forward, forward, forward, not to take refuge in a quiet life or in cozy structures.”
Saint Paul’s apostolic zeal, he observed, comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
Paul did not find and encounter Jesus Christ with an intellectual or scientific knowledge, but with “that first knowledge of the heart and of a personal encounter.”
According to the Pope, St. Paul was a “fiery” individual who was always in trouble, “not in trouble for troubles’ sake, but for Jesus” because “proclaiming Jesus is the consequence.”
“The Church has so much need of this, not only in distant lands, in the young churches, among people who do not know Jesus Christ, but here in the cities, in our cities, they need this proclamation of Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis stressed.
“So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal, onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, take courage!” he exclaimed.