Redemptoris Missio 40: Toward The South And East

One matter dear to John Paul  II’s heart was “Directing Attention Toward the South and the East.”

Today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church. As the end of the second millennium of the redemption draws near, it is clear that the peoples who have not yet received an initial proclamation of Christ constitute the majority of mankind.

Still a correct diagnosis today. Also true that there have never been more people alive who have yet to receive that kerygma.

The results of missionary activity in modern times are certainly positive. The Church has been established on every continent; indeed today the majority of believers and particular churches is to be found no longer in Europe but on the continents which missionaries have opened up to the faith.

What do you make of this analysis?

The fact remains however that the “ends of the earth” to which the Gospel must be brought are growing ever more distant.

I’m not sure I would agree. Certainly, the prospect of evangelizing is daunting. The Gospel has been harmed by the demonic witness of colonialism. But we are not operating in ignorance as ancient Christians were:

Tertullian’s saying, that the Gospel has been proclaimed to all the earth and to all peoples,(Cf. De praescriptione haereticorum, XX: CCL, I, 201f ) is still very far from being a reality. The mission ad gentes is still in its infancy. New peoples appear on the world scene, and they too have a right to receive the proclamation of salvation. Population growth in non-Christian countries of the South and the East is constantly increasing the number of people who remain unaware of Christ’s redemption.

Therefore, John Paul II’s prescription at the end of this chapter on the mission ad gentes/to the peoples is a top priority.

We need therefore to direct our attention toward those geographical areas and cultural settings which still remain uninfluenced by the Gospel. All who believe in Christ should feel, as an integral part of their faith, an apostolic concern to pass on to others its light and joy. This concern must become, as it were, a hunger and thirst to make the Lord known, given the vastness of the non-Christian world.

Two challenges go unmentioned. First, overcoming the antigospel witness of the First World and the association of Christianity with white supremacists. Second would be to watch for the loss of fervor after the initial missionary effort. Great saints have evangelized across the globe. Why did they not cultivate their fields more fruitfully for a second generation to rise up and take the reins? Count the named disciples made by Saint Paul in the New Testament. We know little enough about them aside from names. But we know they were honored as saints. The missionary efforts of the 16th and 17th century had a superior geographic reach, but not so effective in terms of depth. That might tell us what sort of better effort is needed: more than building churches, setting up bishops, and marking boundaries.

A reminder that 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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