In finishing up the theme of the Initial Proclamation, Pope John Paul II looks at the difficulties the missionary faces:
In proclaiming Christ to non-Christians, the missionary is convinced that, through the working of the Spirit, there already exists in individuals and peoples an expectation, even if an unconscious one, of knowing the truth about God, about man, and about how we are to be set free from sin and death. The missionary’s enthusiasm in proclaiming Christ comes from the conviction that he is responding to that expectation, and so he does not become discouraged or cease his witness even when he is called to manifest his faith in an environment that is hostile or indifferent. He knows that the Spirit of the Father is speaking through him (cf. Mt 10:17-20; Lk 12:11-12) and he can say with the apostles: “We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:32). He knows that he is not proclaiming a human truth, but the “word of God,” which has an intrinsic and mysterious power of its own (cf. Rom 1:16).
Hopefully we know that “he” also includes “she.” My guess is that more women than men have been missionary disciples in this position. Regardless, it can be a challenge to witness to non-believers. Somehow, giving witness to inactive or alienated Christians might be more difficult.
And a few words on martyrdom:
The supreme test is the giving of one’s life, to the point of accepting death in order to bear witness to one’s faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout Christian history, martyrs, that is, “witnesses,” have always been numerous and indispensable to the spread of the Gospel. In our own age, there are many: bishops, priests, men and women religious, lay people-often unknown heroes who give their lives to bear witness to the faith. They are par excellence the heralds and witnesses of the faith.
While Christians have honored martyrs–and we certainly should–there are instances where decades of seemingly fruitless service is more difficult. Who was it who quipped they could be a martyr if they killed her quick?
This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana