Next topic as we get to the end of Chapter 4, “Fidelity to Christ and the Promotion of Human Freedom.” These are themes not only of evangelization, but also principles very dear to John Paul II’s heart. They should be close to ours as well.
All forms of missionary activity are marked by an awareness that one is furthering human freedom by proclaiming Jesus Christ. The Church must be faithful to Christ, whose body she is, and whose mission she continues. She must necessarily “go the same road that Christ went-namely a road of poverty, obedience, service and self-sacrifice even unto death, from which he emerged a victor through his resurrection.”(Ad Gentes, 5; cf. Lumen Gentium 8)
It bears repeating: our best witness is how we live, not necessarily what we preach. Going the same route as the Teacher means we will embrace all of his example, not just the pious, the social justice, the anger in the Temple, the criticism of the religious hypocrites, or anything else we might like more than the rest.
Humanism gets a bad name in some quarters, but it is certainly compatible with Christianity. Freedom is how God has intended us to live. It permits us to imitate the Lord as best we can.
The Church is thus obliged to do everything possible to carry out her mission in the world and to reach all peoples. And she has the right to do this, a right given her by God for the accomplishment of his plan. Religious freedom, which is still at times limited or restricted, remains the premise and guarantee of all the freedoms that ensure the common good of individuals and peoples. It is to be hoped that authentic religious freedom will be granted to all people everywhere. The Church strives for this in all countries, especially in those with a Catholic majority, where she has greater influence. But it is not a question of the religion of the majority or the minority, but of an inalienable right of each and every human person.
The Church may have fallen on its face in past centuries, but the consistent witness since at least the 1960s is well-documented:
On her part. the Church addresses people with full respect for their freedom.(Cf. Dignitatis Humanae 3-4; Evangelii Nuntiandi 79-80; Redemptor Hominis 12) Her mission does not restrict freedom but rather promotes it. The Church proposes; she imposes nothing. She respects individuals and cultures, and she honors the sanctuary of conscience. To those who for various reasons oppose missionary activity, the Church repeats: Open the doors to Christ!
A personal note from John Paul II ends this section:
Here I wish to address all the particular churches, both young and old. The world is steadily growing more united, and the gospel spirit must lead us to overcome cultural and nationalistic barriers, avoiding all isolationism. Pope Benedict XV already cautioned the missionaries of his time lest they “forget their proper dignity and think more of their earthly homeland than of their heavenly one.”(Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud ) This same advice is valid today for the particular churches: Open the doors to missionaries, for “each individual church that would voluntarily cut itself off from the universal Church would lose its relationship to God’s plan and would be impoverished in its ecclesial mission.”(Evangelii Nuntiandi 62)
His skepticism on a blind adherence to one’s culture and political affiliation is well-taken in these days of unrest and resurgence of barriers between human beings. Walls, isolation, statues, and many other symbols, policies, and physical barriers are an affront to the Gospel.
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