Joy and Hope in Mission
Mission is our effort to share the Good News. Sometimes the word "evangelization" is used; it is a word to describe "sharing the gospel". We go out into the "ends of the earth" telling people about Jesus and inviting them to continue sharing this Good News. Pope Francis notes that mission is a command. In God's command God always said "go". Abraham accepted the command. Moses accepted the command. The prophets accepted the command. Jesus accepted the command. Go. They accepted and they went. Jesus gave the command to his disciples--go on mission. Mission is a command of Jesus to his disciples and the Church! Go to the ends of the earth, Jesus said to make sure that people learn from what he, Jesus, taught his disciples. (See Mt 28/19-20). Go... so that the faith spreads everywhere. We, as Church and disciples of Christ, are also commanded. Go and take courage to bring the good news everywhere. (See Pope Francis'encyclical Evangelii gaudium #19-20).
But before we start talking about mission let us talk about the motivations that lead us to mission. What makes us want to share the Good News? Why do we want to tell people about Jesus Christ? Let us look at two reasons motivating us to share.
a. First we are joyful. We are joyful to have received the Good News. We go out on mission with joy to share the Good News.
b. Second is that we are hopeful. We are hopeful that what we share will fulfill lives of people.
1. Pope Francis wrote his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (EG)--the "Joy of the Gospel". The Gospel, he says, is source of joy. Why did the Apostles and the early Christians accept to follow the command of Jesus to "go" and share the Good News? For the Pope the reason is that the joy of the Gospel filled their hearts. They received the Good News, they encountered Christ, they were so glad to go and share their experiences. They were filled with joy. Thus the joy of the Gospel is the missionary joy too (see EG#21).
2. The joy of the Gospel is a sign that that the Gospel is announced and it gives fruits. Joy motivates the going--and the going is often far to other places, countries, cultures. The Pope notes that joy has a dynamism of going and giving. Joy is marked by the dynamism to go far and farther. (See EG#21). Ok, maybe some of us do not go to very far countries. Some of us may be staying in the parish. But we feel there is something more to share. We want to go "far" into the lives of people even if they are just in the local parish.
3. The joy is, in a big way, awakened by intimacy with Christ. The intimacy (of the Church) with Christ makes the Church move. Our communion and intimacy with Jesus is missionary (see EG#23). We have know Jesus in our lives and we are joyful. We want to share the joy without hesitation. "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Lk2/10).
4. At the heart of mission is the joy of the Gospel thanks to our intimacy with Christ. The Church goes; she accepts to "go to the ends of the earth", "go to all creation". The Church takes the initiative and gets really involved. This is because Jesus himself has done it before. In the mind of St. John the evangelist we are branches of the vine. We are so connected with Christ. So we do as Christ did. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. We wash the feet of others. We are in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus went on mission, sent by his Father. We go on mission in the footsteps of Jesus.
5. The Pope notes that we go and touch the suffering of people--we get implicated in their lives. We accompany others--we accompany humanity--in all of the processes that humanity undergoes. We have had an encounter with Christ and "we saw his glory" (Jn1/14). We celebrate as we go on mission: we celebrate the joy of having known Christ and we share the joy. We celebrate each victory over death, we celebrate evangelization (see EG#24).
1. The Apostles encountered Christ and have witnessed how Christ won over death. It was a joyful experience. It was also an experience that opened up hope of the Apostles for all peoples. If Jesus was victorious, this meant victory for all peoples. The Apostles were stimulated to proclaim the good news. Death--and all the darkness we have in this world--is not the ultimate destiny. Mission is so motivated by the experience of being saved in a world of death and distress. This hope is founded on the resurrection of Christ. The Apostles and the early Christians were stimulated to share the good news. "They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them...." (Mk16/20).
2. The challenge for mission is to offer a sense of hope. Hope as principle of life can be presented. Mission is challenged to say that there is hope: "Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy". (He 10/23). In hope for the final victory we confess our faith strongly. The promise we see in the resurrection of Christ is trustworthy. The hope for salvation already announced by the prophets and realized in Christ. Let us share this in mission.
3. Church mission is to orient hope to the eschatological fullness. It is hope that we do not see but "...if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance....the Spirit itself intercedes." (Rm 8/25-27).Hope is given to us by God and it is strengthened by love. Without hope mission dies.
4. Hope is a grace given to us. But it is also human to hope because human life is basically hopeful. No human life can hold without a minimum of hope: a sense of expecting a future, a better future. Something to look forward to. Imagine a life without anything to look forward to! Mission recognizes human hope and offers a content: fulfillment in God. Hope is in Christ and opens up the future leading to communion with God. Mission is a way of awakening each life to recognize the orientation of life to communion with God.
5. Hope relies on the fact that life is good, beautiful, true. All life is oriented to fullness: in fulfillment in God. Whatever is opposed to human fulfillment denies life, it denies respect for creation, it denies the dignity and depth of each person. It is opposed to any sense of future.
6. We Christians think of the eschatology and we hope for fulfillment. This fulfillment has been inaugurated by Christ and it is a fulfillment on the move; it is a process. So we feel the need to face reality here and now. Our hope makes us address life now. Mission tells the world that in its suffering Christ has won and is not in favor of the misery of people. Mission says that the Incarnation of Christ is his solidarity with us. It is his honoring of humanity. Hence mission affirms human reality even in the here and now.
7. Christian faith is based on what has already been accomplished: resurrection and victory over death by Christ. It is also based on hope on what is not yet fully accomplished. There are both faces in Christianity. We have the assurance of the resurrection and we organize our future. Mission talks of what Jesus had done, his victory. It also opens up in hope for the final fulfillment in the eschatology.
8. We can then place mission under the light of hope. We patiently hope that God in his own mysterious way will lead all reality to fulfillment; we participate in that process. We "dance"with God in time. Mission is to live in history and participate in turning history to its source--God--and destiny--God. Mission is a work of patience that requires faith, of course, in the victory of Christ over death. This victory has been revealed. Hope is to look forward to the final fulfillment of all.
Mission: Taking cue from Ad gentes
1. Mission is the mission of God, and God is a Trinitarian God.
• God the Father has a plan.
• The Son and the Holy Spirit execute that plan. In other words, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the ones who go one mission to fulfill the plan of the Father.
2. What does Jesus Christ do? Humanity seeks for God. Humanity wants to find rest in God. The Father decides to answer that quest by entering into history and concrete human life. The Word became flesh, as the 4th gospel says (see Jn1/14). The incarnation is God’s way of uniting with us, humanity. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, the Son of God who “worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart” (Gaudium et spes #22). Jesus Christ pulled us away from the hold of sin on us. He then restored us in communion with the Father. Jesus Christ came as the true and unique mediator, making us participate in the life of the Father. For Ad gentes (#3) the mission of the Son is redemptive and restoring.
3. The Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son is inside Church. (See Ad gentes #4). The Holy Spirit dwells in the Church starting with the Apostles. The Holy Spirit gives gifts; charisms. The Holy Spirit gifted the Church with a hierarchy. The Holy Spirit animates the Church, gives life to the Church. Thanks to the Holy Spirit the Church becomes “missionary”. So the Holy Spirit has the mission to make us “alive” and inspire us to move on and continue the mission of Jesus Christ.
4. What about the Church? Jesus Christ, founder of the Church, made the command of mission. Hence mission has been instituted by Jesus Christ. It started with the Apostles who formed the hierarchy. Christ founded the Church as “sacrament of salvation”. (See also Lumen gentium 5,9). Jesus gave the command to “go” to the ends of the earth and proclaim the good news (see Mt28/19ff and Mk16/15ff). The mission command in assumed by the Church. The Church sees it her duty to propagate the faith. (See Ad gentes #5).
5. What exactly is the mission of the Church? Her mission is to obey the command of Christ to go and preach. The Church continues the mission of Christ in the footsteps of Christ. As the Father sent the Son, the Son sends the Church (see Jn17/18 and 20/21). Her mission is moved and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Because the Church is commanded to go everywhere she is to be present to everyone everywhere. Her presence to people calls her to lead everyone to the faith, to liberty, freedom. The Church, simply put, leads all to Christ.
6. The Church has different styles of doing mission, depending on the different contexts in which the Church enters. The Church may not always be “successful” on mission; there are the ups and downs.
7. Although proclaiming the good news is mission of the Church, there is more. In later encyclicals of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II there is mention of other tasks, including inculturation, work for justice and dialogue. We will go into these later.
The Necessity of Mission
1. The missionary activity of the Church should be done. It is a necessity. (See Ad gentes #7). Why? It is what God wants, first of all. Mission is not originally from us; it is from God. God commanded this to us. Hence it is a necessity.
2. This notion of necessity tends to be so misunderstood. It looks like an imposition. It looks like we, members of the Church, are obliged. But remember what we said above regarding joy and hope. Yes, mission is from God and commanded by God. But we are so joyful and hopeful in mission: we are so willing to go on mission. Maybe we feel the obligation: but we do not mind. We internalize and accept as our work what God has commanded us. "We saw his glory" (Jn1/14) and we are so happy to share that.
3. God wants us to share in his life and he sent the Son and Spirit to bring us to this participation in divine life.
4. In participating with the mission of God the Trinity we, the Church, want others to know the truth about God and his plan to have everyone share in his life.
5. Through the missionary activity of the Church we are so glad that...
• God is glorified.
• The plan of God is realized.
• Humanity realizes being image and likeness of God, regenerated in Christ, reflecting God’s glory, praying the Our Father.
6. In other words, through the missionary activity of the Church all will be assembled as God’s people, as Church, body of Christ and Temple of the Holy Spirit.
7. Note then how important it is, for Ad gentes, that the Church goes on mission. This in view the end of time—the “eschatology”. Before the final return of Christ the gospel must be proclaimed everywhere (see Ad gentes #9).
8. Again mission is defined, now in the light of the eschatology. Mission is a way of manifesting God’s plan for all times. It is a way of manifesting the final realization of God plan in the world and in history. Mission is a way of participating in this eschatological movement; it is a participation in the history of salvation of the world. Mission “tends” towards full eschatology: “missionary activity tends toward eschatological fullness” (Ad gentes #9). By the missionary work of the Church “the people of God is increased”, “the mystical body grows to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ”, and “the spiritual temple, where God is adored in spirit and in truth (cf. John 4:23), grows and is built up upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme corner stone (Eph. 2:20)” (Ad gentes #9). What we see here is the communion of all humanity with the Trinity in and through the Church which is “people of God”, “body of Christ” and “Temple of the Spirit”.