Let us go forth, then…

 Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 49

No person ever walked away unchanged from a moment spent with Jesus. When he looked into the eyes of someone suffering, Jesus did not first see a problem or injustice, he saw a person. His encounter with them was always a personal one that left no doubt that the one before him was deeply loved. How often in the Gospel we see Jesus providing us an example of true encounter. Can we ignore that most of these encounters take place outside the temple, often with those who would never have been welcomed or interested in worshiping there?

“To go forth.”  We have chosen this title for our new blog with great intention. Our mission, taken from Jesus himself (Mt. 28:19), is to go forth to all who are in need, who while they are on the margins of our society, are in fact at the center of the heart of Christ. But when we go forth, we go forth the way Jesus did—to meet people, to encounter them.

Our present age encourages transactional relationships –in buying or selling, seeking greater levels of productivity and efficiency, running from meeting to meeting in endless activity, even in our charitable works.

And yet, we have all met at least one person in our lives who made us feel as if we were the only person that mattered in the world to them, even if for just a moment. No doubt every person who left an encounter with Jesus felt this, even if they were not ready to follow him. To encounter others means to be more than transactional about transmitting God’s love. If we end an encounter without knowing the other more deeply, have we encountered them at all? Pope Francis uses this word encounter repeatedly. It is always coupled with his exhortation to go to the margins. In a speech to the bishops of Brazil, Pope Francis asked the simple question: “When you give alms to someone do you look them in the eye or do you simply toss them some charity and walk away? If you do not touch them, you have not encountered them… We must build a culture of encounter.”

As difficult as it can be sometimes, we are called to truly engage with others every day of our lives. We must not miss God’s image and likeness in the person before us. Every person we meet is due a love and respect equal to their high dignity as a daughter or son of God.

We have many hopes for this new blog. This will be a forum that explores the Church’s teaching, while at the same time considering very practical issues that confront us as individuals and at the level of the greater common good. It will allow us to consider issues that affect U.S. concerns, but also to tackle ideas and challenges with global and international dimensions. Even with heavy doses of reality and challenge, we will try to achieve a balance with the hope that comes from sharing ideas, stories and inspiration. This blog will be the product of numerous voices, expanding our vision and creating conversation. But these goals all serve a higher purpose: it is our sincere desire that this blog will encourage all of us to go forth and to truly encounter the other; and, in encountering the other, to come to know and love Jesus himself in ever deeper ways.

Reyes photo GuadalupeDr. Jonathan Reyes is executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

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