Today, as never before, the Church has the opportunity of bringing the Gospel, by witness and word, to all people and nations. I see the dawning of a new missionary age, which will become a radiant day bearing an abundant harvest, if all Christians, and missionaries and young churches in particular, respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time.
I think we have the potential. In my observation, the last thirty years have hampered this promise with discouragement in scandals and detours into pharisaism. So many missed opportunities as the Church has diddled on peripheral issues.
We do need the Holy Spirit:
Like the apostles after Christ’s Ascension, the Church must gather in the Upper Room “together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14), in order to pray for the Spirit and to gain strength and courage to carry out the missionary mandate. We too, like the apostles, need to be transformed and guided by the Spirit.
It’s not a surprise Pope John Paul II looked to the Blessed Mother for inspiration:
On the eve of the third millennium the whole Church is invited to live more intensely the mystery of Christ by gratefully cooperating in the work of salvation. The Church does this together with Mary and following the example of Mary, the Church’s Mother and model: Mary is the model of that maternal love which should inspire all who cooperate in the Church’s apostolic mission for the rebirth of humanity. Therefore, “strengthened by the presence of Christ, the Church journeys through time toward the consummation of the ages and goes to meet the Lord who comes. But on this journey …she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary.”(Redemptoris Mater 2)
The challenges here are not insignifcant. How Catholics view Mary is anchored in a rather limited piety that was well-entrenched in an era that did not encourage baptismal holiness or really, authentic disciple-making. Still, many Catholics focus on apparitions, miracles, and aspects of how we see Mary as a supernatural guide, and not a model of sainthood. We need something new here. A lot of some things new.
A final blessing:
To “Mary’s mediation, wholly oriented toward Christ and tending to the revelation of his salvific power,”(Ibid., 22) I entrust the Church and, in particular, those who commit themselves to carrying out the missionary mandate in today’s world. As Christ sent forth his apostles in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, so too, renewing that same mandate, I extend to all of you my apostolic blessing, in the name of the same Most Holy Trinity. Amen.
Given in Rome, at St. Peter’s, on December 7, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Ad Gentes, in the year 1990, the thirteenth of my Pontificate.
JOHN PAUL II
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