The real “deeps” of evangelization engage believers with the world’s billions of non-Christians. Sounds scary, but maybe it’s not. Hindus, Buddhists, and even pagans already seek God, pray, possess spiritual and religious traditions. What do you think of the saint’s testimony that non-Christian religions contain “seeds of the Word”?
53. This first proclamation is also addressed to the immense sections of (humankind) who practice non-Christian religions. The Church respects and esteems these non Christian religions because they are the living expression of the soul of vast groups of people. They carry within them the echo of thousands of years of searching for God, a quest which is incomplete but often made with great sincerity and righteousness of heart. They possess an impressive patrimony of deeply religious texts. They have taught generations of people how to pray. They are all impregnated with innumerable “seeds of the Word”[Cf. Saint Justin, I Apol. 46, 1-4: PG 6, II Apol. 7 (8) 1-4; 10, 1-3; 13, 3-4; Florilegium Patristicum II, Bonn 1911, pp. 81, 125, 129, 133; Clement of Alexandria, Stromata I, 19, 91; 94; S. Ch. pp. 117-118; 119-110] and can constitute a true “preparation for the Gospel,”[Ad Gentes, 11; Lumen Gentium 17] to quote a felicitous term used by the Second Vatican Council and borrowed from Eusebius of Caesarea.
Such a situation certainly raises complex and delicate questions that must be studied in the light of Christian Tradition and the Church’s magisterium, in order to offer to the missionaries of today and of tomorrow new horizons in their contacts with non-Christian religions. We wish to point out, above all today, that neither respect and esteem for these religions nor the complexity of the questions raised is an invitation to the Church to withhold from these non-Christians the proclamation of Jesus Christ. On the contrary the Church holds that these multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ[Cf. Eph 3:8] – riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find, in unsuspected fullness, everything that it is gropingly searching for concerning God, man and his destiny, life and death, and truth. Even in the face of natural religious expressions most worthy of esteem, the Church finds support in the fact that the religion of Jesus, which she proclaims through evangelization, objectively places man in relation with the plan of God, with His living presence and with His action; she thus causes an encounter with the mystery of divine paternity that bends over towards humanity. In other words, our religion effectively establishes with God an authentic and living relationship which the other religions do not succeed in doing, even though they have, as it were, their arms stretched out towards heaven.
This seems clear. Believers respect non-Christian traditions. We confront the difficult questions. But we have no need to back off from telling others what the reason is for our hope.
This is why the Church keeps her missionary spirit alive, and even wishes to intensify it in the moment of history in which we are living. She feels responsible before entire peoples. She has no rest so long as she has not done her best to proclaim the Good News of Jesus the Savior. She is always preparing new generations of apostles. Let us state this fact with joy at a time when there are not lacking those who think and even say that ardor and the apostolic spirit are exhausted, and that the time of the missions is now past. The Synod has replied that the missionary proclamation never ceases and that the Church will always be striving for the fulfillment of this proclamation.
The responsibility we have is for the good of others. We have a mandate from Christ. We all share the call to live a life attractive to others, if not preach Christ explicitly. But the end is not only our obedience to God, but also the ingathering of seekers into Christ.