Redemptoris Missio 7: Faith And Human Freedom

Today’s topic: Faith in Christ Is Directed to Man’s Freedom

The urgency of missionary activity derives from the radical newness of life brought by Christ and lived by his followers.

The season of Easter is a lovely time to reflect on this. So many experiences of the newness of life: the announcement at the Empty Tomb, Mary Magdalene and the “presumed” gardener, the encounter on the road to Emmaus, what Thomas saw, the breakfast on the beach. If we are attuned, we might reflect on stories from our own life that reflect this: joy of a marriage or birth of a child, perhaps a recovery from serious illness, an experience of answered prayer.

Do we recognize that this, like everything, is pure gift? Christians do.

This new life is a gift from God, and people are asked to accept and develop it, if they wish to realize the fullness of their vocation in conformity to Christ. The whole New Testament is a hymn to the new life of those who believe in Christ and live in his Church. Salvation in Christ, as witnessed to and proclaimed by the Church, is God’s self-communication: “It is love which not only creates the good, but also grants participation in the very life of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For he who loves desires to give himself.”(Dives in Misericordia 7)

The citation is the early John Paul II document we reviewed here nearly five years ago. The Christian premise, unique to religious traditions in the world, is the relentless self-giving love of God.

God offers (humankind) this newness of life. “Can one reject Christ and everything that he has brought about in the history of mankind? Of course one can. (People are) free. (We) can say ‘no’ to God. (We) can say ‘no’ to Christ. But the fundamental question remains: Is it legitimate to do this? And what would make it legitimate?”(Homily for the celebration of the Eucharist in Krakow, June 10, 1979)

If the ones offering the witness to Christ are significantly flawed, the rejection may occur. People who have abused children, exploited the needy, and acted in ways contrary to the Gospel–in other words, people witnessing to an antigospel. Rejection of such offers, if communicated through scandalously flawed persons, may indeed be legitimately declined. Of course, the person rejected is not Jesus Christ. It may even be a well-meaning portrait of him, but declining new life can sometimes be attributed to those who have committed grave public sins and those who have aligned publicly with them.

It is a most difficult situation that requires careful discernment. We want the message to communicate Christ as the hope of unexpected, complete, and grace-filled joy. We need to be sure the messengers bring the right message.

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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