Redemptoris Missio 26: Making a Missionary Church

When Pope John Paul wrote that “The Holy Spirit Makes the Whole Church Missionary,” what did he mean?

The coming of the Holy Spirit wasn’t just a showing of God’s power, like an Epiphany with no connection to a purpose or plan. Jesus’ public ministry had a purpose from the start, the salvation of every person. Pentecost is one step in that plan, the coming of an Advocate to help people cooperate in completing that plan.

The Spirit leads the company of believers to “form a community,” to be the Church. After Peter’s first proclamation on the day of Pentecost and the conversions that followed, the first community takes shape (cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35).

The purpose was not primarily the birthday of a church, but to form a community with a goal. The “mission” of “missionary.”

One of the central purposes of mission is to bring people together in hearing the Gospel, in fraternal communion, in prayer and in the Eucharist. To live in “fraternal communion” (koinonia) means to be “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32), establishing fellowship from every point of view: human, spiritual and material. Indeed, a true Christian community is also committed to distributing earthly goods, so that no one is in want, and all can receive such goods “as they need” (cf. Acts 2:45; 4:35). The first communities, made up of “glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46), were open and missionary: they enjoyed “favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). Even before activity, mission means witness and a way of life that shines out to others.(Cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi 41-42)

The suggestion here from Pope Paul VI is that the communal life is itself an aspect of the kerygma, the preaching of the Reign of God. People do not arrive at church doors already converted and ready to leap into the plan of God. They are most often attracted by curiosity, positive favor, and a desire to change a way of life that they recognize as unsatisfying.

When the Church–and that means everybody from the pope and bishops to the gathering of two lay people for prayer–evinces “life that shines out,” then the mission has begun. When the witness is poor, and worse than a person’s current circumstances, then it is a miserable situation indeed.

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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