Missionary dimension of the Church

By: hermano Jesús Bayo Mayor, FMS

Niños de la Infancia Misionera de San José de las Lajas.

With the closing of the National Youth Day in each of our dioceses, the Cuban bishops opened the Missionary Year, which has as its motto “Cuba, proclaims the Gospel with joy!”. The celebration was convened by the National Mission Commission and is closed by the Second National Assembly of Missions, to be held from 3 to 7 August 2020 in El Cobre. The main fruit of this commemoration that extends over an entire year will be to strengthen the missionary activity of all communities. The Church in Cuba wants the proclamation of Jesus Christ to be spread in places and people who do not yet know Him. He wants Jesus Christ and his gospel to be known, loved, and served throughout our homeland.

The Church exists to evangelize: we cannot silence what we have seen and heard

El identificador en forma de corazón representa a todo misionero que debe tener un corazón ardiente y celoso para poder dar a conocer la palabra de Dios y anunciar a Jesucristo con alegría.

Evangelization is one of the mandates that Jesus left to us Christians, as we find it embodied in the Gospel. “Go all over the world and make my disciples in all peoples” (Mt 28:19). If we have followed Jesus Christ, it is to love him and make him known, so that all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The meaning of our believing existence lies in living and transmitting this good news. The joy of the gospel and the encounter with the Messiah is always diffuse.
There is nothing more beautiful about our vocation than knowing Christ and communicating his love and mercy to others. The Catholicity of the Church requires us to bring the gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8), “to the end of the world” (Mt 28:20). No country, culture, environment or society should be deprived of the knowledge, grace and love of Christ, “Light to enlighten all peoples” (Lk 2:32). This has also been the Church’s journey over the centuries, depending on the circumstances of each age, she has always sought to carry the gospel across all continents and to all peoples.
Globalization and transformations in our world have changed culture, but the spread of the gospel is always a demand for Christians. Each baptized person, as a member of the Church and according to the vocation received, seeks to be present in all environments and to cross borders to carry the message of salvation. This demand is part of one’s own witness and implies proclamation, celebration, communion and service.
The preaching of the gospel anywhere in the world proposes to live with the freedom of God’s children, to build a more just and equitable society, to exchange in a solidarity and fraternal way, to cultivate peace, dialogue and social friendship, to take care of creation as a common home, to love one’s neighbour and to profess the primacy of God, Creator and Lord who guarantees our full dignity as his image.
Those of us who participate in this evangelizing mission will have to face tribulations, rejections and sufferings, because there are other interests against the gospel everywhere in the world. As in the early days of the Church, today we have the same weapons to defend our faith: the Word of God and the Cross of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1.22-25).
The mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples, to the distant and to the close, demands the poverty of resources, freedom on the pilgrimage for Christ to proclaim the Gospel everywhere, creativity to discover new modes of proclamation and witness, non-violence to propose faith with joy without imposing it by force , the availability to give life for Christ and out of love for men while still proclaiming the message meekly, despite persecutions (cf. Mt 5:38-42; Rom 12.17-21). In the example of the Apostle Paul, our mission is more authentic if we succeed in suffering persecutions and torments for Christ. From St Stephen to the martyrs of today, the blood of witnesses was always the seed of new Christians.

The Holy Spirit, protagonist of the mission in the Church

The protagonist and principal architect of the evangelizing mission in the Church is the Holy Spirit. The gospel is spread only by the power of the Holy Ghost that touches people’s hearts and consciences to convert. It is the Holy Spirit who pours out the love of Christ in our hearts (cf. Rom 5.5) and makes us suitable for mission. The Holy Spirit unies and preserves the Church from all danger (cf. 1 Cor 14), and provides her with the various gifts and charisms to evangelize.
As at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit continues to give the Church the strength for mission. Evangelization needs missionaries with light feet and arms raised in a gesture of prayer so that the Lord may send workers to work in his field and bear fruit. Today’s Christians must imitate the prayer attitude of the apostles in the Upper Room: “They all persevered in prayer, in the same spirit, in the company of some women, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her brethren” (Acts 1:14).
It is the Holy Spirit who guides, enlightens and strengthens the Church, as expressed by the Second Vatican Council: “The Christian community is made up of men who, gathered in Christ, are guided by the Holy Spirit in their pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom and have received the good news of salvation to communicate it to all. The Church therefore feels intimate and truly supportive of mankind and its history” (GS 1).

Challenges of evangelization today

Evangelization always poses great challenges because the Gospel is only rooted in the cultural humus of peoples and in the hearts of converted sinners. The missionary must know and live the message; you must also know the human heart and culture of your people. St Paul, who preached the gospel to Jews and pagans, was able to verify that the cross of Christ is foolishness for the Greeks and scandal for the Jews, and that Christ’s Resurrection was also not well received. Despite all this, he continued to proclaim Christ crucified and risen, true God and true man.
Something similar can happen to us today in any postmodern environment. We encounter men and women in our societies who seek to save themselves and despise any other Savior, some try to uproot all kinds of experience of God because they consider it absurd, others reject God because they think it threatens human freedom and its autonomy, there is no shortage of those who are indifferent and evade the presence of a supreme being. Secularism invades our society.
In addition, there are those who worship idols and false gods, so abundant in our societies: money, pleasure, consumerism, weapons, violence, fame and so many symbols of magic, superstition and idolatry. There are also fanatics and ignorants who wreak havoc in all environments against the God of mercy. On the other hand, some of us who declare to follow Jesus do not always bear witness to his love, and we become unbelievable what we preach with our lips but deny with our lives of wickedness.
Anyway, Jesus Christ is always Good News because He reveals to the human being his true identity. We can affirm that the enemy people of God and his Christ are threatened in their human integrity, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us: “The creature without the Creator vanishes. Moreover, by the forgetfulness of God, the creature itself is obscured” (GS 36). The marginalization of God in human relationships does not affect the existence of God, but produces deterioration in human beings and their most specific values. Only the Holy Spirit is able to “renew the face of the earth” and to convert the interior of the human being disfigured by sin.
The mission entails inculturation, human promotion and the liberation of all forms of injustice and slavery. Evangelization requires us to leave our comfort and our places of comfort to go to the peripheries, the margins, the conflicting borders and the dangerous deserts. It is the choice for the lost sheep, the public sinner, being more helpless, sick, poor and abandoned. The mission is related to the exercise of mercy and solidarity: to leave our places comfortable to give from our poverty in other neighborhoods, in other environments, in other dioceses, in other countries.
We are called to go out and proclaim the gospel with new ardant and new methods. The Church proclaims, proclaims, preaches, catechists; the Church celebrates and gathers in the unity of love, communion and charity, in the celebration of the sacraments; the Church is a servant and compassionate, she points the way, teaches and shepherds tenderly. The missionary Church follows the path of the first believer and missionary, a traveling pilgrim with bare feet.
Mary receives Jesus in the Annunciation and immediately sets out to proclaim the wonders of God, is a bearer of Christ in the Visitation, bears the Good News. In Cana he points the way by saying, “Do as He tells you.” At the foot of the Cross he offers his son and Lord. At Pentecost he prays with the Church for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s believing path and fidelity to the Lord is a missionary proposal for the Church.

The Saints, each in their context and time, were infatigable missionaries in the service of Christ and his Church. After Andrew met Jesus he went to communicate to Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41). When Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus, she ran to give the Good News to others (cf. Jn 20:18). We could say the same about all the saints. As a sample button, it is enough to observe Francisco de Assis and Domingo de Guzmán, Ignacio de Loyola and Francisco Javier, Teresa de Avila and Catalina de Siena, Francisco de Sales and Juan Bosco, Vicente de Paul and Luisa de Marillac, Teresa de Lisieux and Teresa of Calcutta… They announced not only Jesus Christ by word but with his life, enlarging both his heart and encompassing the world. Marcellin Champagnat said: “All the dioceses of the world come into our plans,” and offered to missionary in Oceania. He could not go, but sent a group of Marist missionaries, including Pedro Chanel, a protomartir of Oceania.
The missionary dimension is inherent in the nature of the Church and its role in the world as a sacrament of salvation and liberation. All Christians are committed to this mission. This is stated by John: “What we contemplate about the Word that is Life […] We announce it to you and deliver it to you” (1 Jn 1.1-3). Before the Sanedrín, Peter and John say, “We cannot silence what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

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