For a disciple, the urge to preach the Gospel cannot be suppressed. For clergy or lay person, it might be the single authentic sign of discipleship, the willingness to spread the faith wherever and whenever one can. Pope John Paul II’s citation of Saint Peter, “We cannot but speak” (Acts 4:20) is not an exaggeration.
What then should be said of the objections already mentioned regarding the mission ad gentes? While respecting the beliefs and sensitivities of all, we must first clearly affirm our faith in Christ, the one Savior of (humankind), a faith we have received as a gift from on high, not as a result of any merit of our own. We say with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Rom 1:16). Christian martyrs of all times – including our own – have given and continue to give their lives in order to bear witness to this faith, in the conviction that every human being needs Jesus Christ, who has conquered sin and death and reconciled (humankind) to God.
I would add an important perspective here: our relationship is not only predicated on the role of savior to redeemed as described here. Jesus also invites us, beckons us to friendship. We can feel an urge to evangelize because, first, our own salvation depended on it. We can address the impulse to spread the Gospel as fulfilling the Lord’s command. And none of that would be wrong.
What makes Christianity distinctive from any other religious tradition with stronger or lesser mandates to spread throughout the human race is this: the basic love offered to us in Christ.
In an ideal marriage, for example, a spouse does things for the beloved not from a sense of legal obligation, or even from some mutuality of good favors and kindnesses shared. We demonstrate love unilaterally through actions. We do things because, simple, we love. The marriage license, the wedding band, the legal obligations are irrelevant.
Obviously, Jesus did much, much more for us:
Confirming his words by miracles and by his resurrection from the dead, Christ proclaimed himself to be the Son of God dwelling in intimate union with the Father, and was recognized as such by his disciples. The Church offers (humankind) the Gospel, that prophetic message which responds to the needs and aspirations of the human heart and always remains “Good News.” The Church cannot fail to proclaim that Jesus came to reveal the face of God and to merit salvation for all humanity by his cross and resurrection.
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