To the question, “why mission?” we reply with the Church’s faith and experience that true liberation consists in opening oneself to the love of Christ. In him, and only in him, are we set free from all alienation and doubt, from slavery to the power of sin and death. Christ is truly “our peace” (Eph 2:14); “the love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14), giving meaning and joy to our life. Mission is an issue of faith, an accurate indicator of our faith in Christ and his love for us.
This aligns with my comment yesterday: an active participation in the mission of the Lord is a hallmark of discipleship. I think a person can be a believer, and have faith–even strong faith unto death and even martyrdom. But without the mission, they are likely not a disciple.
Pope John Paul II draws an important distinction here:
The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world a “gradual secularization of salvation” has taken place, so that people strive for the good of (people), but (the person) who is truncated, reduced to (a) merely horizontal dimension.
This can happen in church circles. My caution on apologetics is tied in with this. We can know facts, maybe a lot of them, about Jesus, the Bible, and the Church. We can cite canon law, liturgical rubrics, and the catechism and do so accurately and faithfully. But without love, we are promoting what the pope describes as “well-being.”
Being a Catholic Christian is good for you in the long-term. That is certainly true. But it’s a harsh reduction of the Christian faith.
We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all (humankind), and opens up the wondrous prospect of divine filiation.
What does Jesus preach about the whole person? Simply the heart, soul, strength, and mind (Cf. Luke 10:27). No less.
Why mission? Because to us, as to St. Paul, “this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). Newness of life in him is the “Good News” for men and women of every age: all are called to it and destined for it. Indeed, all people are searching for it, albeit at times in a confused way, and have a right to know the value of this gift and to approach it freely. The Church, and every individual Christian within her, may not keep hidden or monopolize this newness and richness which has been received from God’s bounty in order to be communicated to all (people).
It is important to recognize that the search for Good News is universal. It is how we are created. Obviously, it is usually ineffective to suggest to a non-Christian she or he is an anonymous Christian. It is the task of the mission-oriented disciple to invite the exploration of the impulse for God. How does this happen? Making real friends.
Let’s wrap up John Paul’s presentation of “Jesus Christ, the Only Savior,” where he leans strongly on Vatican II, and suggests a serious warning for anyone who considers herself or himself a good Catholic:
This is why the Church’s mission derives not only from the Lord’s mandate but also from the profound demands of God’s life within us. Those who are incorporated in the Catholic Church ought to sense their privilege and for that very reason their greater obligation of bearing witness to the faith and to the Christian life as a service to their brothers and sisters and as a fitting response to God. They should be ever mindful that “they owe their distinguished status not to their own merits but to Christ’s special grace; and if they fail to respond to this grace in thought, word and deed, not only will they not be saved, they will be judged more severely.”(Lumen Gentium 14)
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