Along with personal encounter with Jesus, Pope Francis equally emphasizes ‘passion for people’ as an integral element of spirited evangelization. Even the identity of the missionary call lies in belonging to the people, says the Pope: “He (Jesus) takes us from the midst of His people and He sends us to His people; without this sense of belonging we cannot understand our deepest identity.” Hence the Pope defines Mission succinctly in this formula: “Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for His people” (# 268).
Pope Francis draws the need of missionary love for people from our love of Jesus. EG does it in a graphic manner thus: “When we stand before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of His love which exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all His people. We realize once more that He wants to make use of us to draw closer to His beloved people” (# 268b). It says further: “Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way He lived His entire life. Moved by His example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns (# 269). In fact, “Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal and communal niches…. and instead, enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness” (# 270).
It is indeed exciting that Mahatma Gandhi has put forward the very same points, though from his own perspective and in a different context. Firstly, Gandhi was personally convinced that his life goal of ‘seeing the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face’ cannot be realized unless one loves the meanest of creation as oneself and reduces oneself to zero with a view to service of humanity. “So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures there is no salvation for him” (Auto.383). For Gandhi man’s ultimate aim is the realization of God…The immediate service of all human beings becomes a necessary part of the endeavour, simply because the only way to find God is to see Him in His creatures and be one with it. This can only be done by service of all…If I could persuade myself that I could find Him in a Himalayan cave I would proceed there immediately. But I know that I cannot find him apart from humanity (Truth 33).
Gandhi imparted the same spirit of ‘love for people’ among his Congress-workers, too: “It is right however to say that we politicians represent the masses in opposition to the Government…But we must first come in living touch with them by working for them and in their midst. We must share their sorrows, understand their difficulties and anticipate their wants. With the pariahs we must be pariahs and see how we feel to clean the closets of the upper classes and have the remains of their table thrown at us. We must see how we like being in the boxes, miscalled houses, of the labourers of Bombay. We must identify ourselves with the villagers who toil under the hot sun beating on their bent backs and see how we would like to drink water from the pool in which the villagers bathe, wash their clothes and pots and in which their cattle drink and roll. Then and not till then shall we truly represent the masses” (Bose 106). “I cannot imagine better worship of God than that in His name I should labour for the poor even as they do (Bose 50.)
Finally, it was a plain fact that Gandhi loved all irrespective of colour, caste, creed or any other appearances, but only as a means to attain God. “I have known no distinction between relatives, and strangers countrymen or foreigners, white and coloured, Hindus and Indians of other faiths… All men are brothers and no human being should be a stranger to another” (All men vi). In fact he named his favourite project as well as the vision of Kingdom of God as Sarvodya (sarvam + udaya= Rise of All) indicates his firm determination to uplift all.