Church Exists to Evangelize! Pope Calls every Catholic to Become a Missionary
The Lord of the harvest is calling workers into the fields of contemporary culture which are ripe and ready for harvest.
Pope Benedict XVI does not want "Mission Sunday" 2011 to pass by as one more commemoration in our liturgical observance. Rather, he wants it to ignite a fervent missionary movement in the Catholic Church. He is calling the entire Catholic Church into a new missionary age. We are living in a global moment of need and Pope Benedict XVI is calling us all to become missionaries. Let us here the call and respond.
Pope Benedict XVI at a Wednesday General Audience
VATICAN CITY, (Catholic Online) - On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI made public his message for World Mission Sunday. It is entitled "As the Father has sent me, so I send you "(Jn 20:21) World Mission Sunday falls on October 23, 2011. The full text of this message will soon be available in English on the Vatican website. However, my very rough translation of the Italian persuaded me to do what I could to expose as many of the faithful I could to this heartfelt and urgent summons given to all of us by the successor of Peter.
Clearly, Pope Benedict XVI does not want "Mission Sunday" 2011 to pass by as one more commemoration in our liturgical observance. Rather, he wants it to ignite a fervent missionary movement in the Catholic Church. He is calling the entire Catholic Church into a new missionary age.
Pope Benedict XVI begins his message quoting the Venerable John Paul II, from his apostolic letter at the turn of the New Millennium and his encyclical letter on the permanent validity of the Churches Missionary Vocation. He then calls every member of the Church to proclaim the Gospel to everyone "with the same enthusiasm as the early Christians" explaining "the Gospel is not the exclusive property of those who received it, but it is a gift to share, good news to report. And this gift-commitment is given not only to some, but to all the baptized, who are "chosen race ... a holy people, God's own people" (1 Peter 2:9), may declare his wonderful works."
Pope Benedict reminds us all that the Church "exists to evangelize" with an urgency reminiscent of the Saint whose feast we celebrated the day this message was made public. He writes,"This task has lost none of its urgency.We cannot rest easy at the thought that, after two thousand, there are people who still do not know Christ, who have not yet heard His message of salvation."
Here he is speaking of the missionary mandate of the Church "ad gentes" , to the Nations. The Church has always taught that every single human being on the face of the earth has a right to hear the liberating Gospel message of Jesus Christ as fully revealed in the heart of His Catholic Church. However, in order to be able to engage this task, Catholic Christians need to be renewed in their own Baptismal faith through an encounter with the Risen Lord and solid catechesis in living as a Catholic Christian.
This is what is meant by the "New Evangelization". The Pope writes, " there are growing numbers of people who, though having received the Gospel announcement, have forgotten or abandoned it and no longer identify themselves in the Church; and many environments, even in traditionally Christian societies, are reluctant to open themselves to the word of faith."
Throughout his pontificate, John Paul II called for this "New Evangelization". Pope Benedict XVI has made it a pillar of his pontificate. He erected a Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization charged with re-evangelizing countries where the Gospel was announced centuries ago, but where its presence in peoples' daily life seems to be all but lost. He constantly reminds us that cultures formerly infused with a Christian culture are desperately in need of being evangelized anew. His encouragement of the predominantly lay ecclesial movements in the Church is an indicator of the seriousness with which he views this task.
When the Venerable John Paul visited the Americas he released a letter "To the Church in America" in which he wrote, "The new Evangelization calls for a clearly conceived, serious, and well organized effort to evangelize culture. The Son of God, by taking upon Himself our human nature, became incarnate within a particular people, even though His redemptive death brought redemption to all people, of every culture, race and condition. The gift of His Spirit and His love are meant for each and every people and culture, in order to bring them all into unity after the perfect unity existing in the Triune God." (Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 70)
This New Evangelization invites each of us to live our baptismal vocation, no matter what our state in life, completely given over to the work of the Lord. It is meant to bring about an authentic renewal of the Church so that she can undertake a new missionary outreach to the whole world. Only a Church fully alive in the ...
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