When we last visited the introduction to Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II quoted 1 Corinthians 9:16, in which the apostle described an inner insistence on shouldering the mission of Jesus. Clearly the author identifies with this:
In the name of the whole Church, I sense an urgent duty to repeat this cry of St. Paul. From the beginning of my Pontificate I have chosen to travel to the ends of the earth in order to show this missionary concern. My direct contact with peoples who do not know Christ has convinced me even more of the urgency of missionary activity, a subject to which I am devoting the present encyclical.
A cynic might say he likes the adulation of the crowds. I do not believe that. John Paul II did what none of his predecessors did: he imitated Saint Paul not only in word, but in deed. It is also true he didn’t confine his meetings to “faithful” or “deserving” Catholics–though these people were certainly part of his entourage. Pope John Paul II, or someone like him, would have been impossible without Vatican II:
The Second Vatican Council sought to renew the Church’s life and activity in the light of the needs of the contemporary world. The Council emphasized the Church’s “missionary nature,” basing it in a dynamic way on the Trinitarian mission itself. The missionary thrust therefore belongs to the very nature of the Christian life, and is also the inspiration behind ecumenism: “that they may all be one…so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21).
The foundational church document is, of course, Ad Gentes. It doesn’t get the regard the four “constitutions” enjoy. But I think time will prove the impulse for evangelization is as important as the perhaps self-focused Lumen Gentium, or the writings on the liturgy and the Word of God. To be sure–these were necessary. Lumen Gentium was foundational to Ad Gentes. Indeed, without it, there would be no Decree on Missionary Activity. Otherwise, we would have uncovered this missionary impulse at Vatican I.
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