08 Mar Bearers of the Fruits of the Gospel: A missionary reflection for Lent (Part 1)
How we are Bearers, Part 1 of 2
We know that the primary mission of Jesus, for which he was sent and to which he devoted his life and for which he died is the CAUSE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, or better, as they say, today, the REIGN OF GOD. This is the plan that was in God in the beginning and is revealed in Christ Jesus, who makes it his own.
This project of the Reign of God is what we would call the Missio Dei, the missio spiritus sancti, which he gives to the Church, whose only mission is to continue building and strengthening whatever favours the Kingdom and denouncing what contradicts it.
Jesus, as we know, showsthis plan in what he is, in what he says and in what he does. His entire being is devoted to the construction of this project, which is a project of life, of reconciliation, of compassion, of love, of solidarity, and of liberation.
We carry out this mission of proclamation, demonstration, identification and construction of the Kingdom as a community and according to the documents of the Second Vatican Council (especially Gaudium et Spes, Ad Gentes, Nostra Aetate) through three activities, intimately interconnected, namely: proclamation, solidarity and dialogue. None is less important or more important than the others; all are addressed to the completeness of the human being, to creation, and to all humans in their settings, to all humanity, in its diverse cultures and situations. Each aspect involves the others because there is no proclamation without solidarity and dialogue or dialogue without solidarity and proclamation or solidarity without proclamation and dialogue. In the past, we spoke about implementation in the solidarity plan as “preparatio evangelico“. Today we know that all this is Gospel, and is good, as all GOOD NEWS should be.
Each Continent (“Ecclesia in…”) translates this threefold task according to his realities.
The three dimensions of evangelisation are not something that can be separated. Inculturation, dialogue, liberation, justice, solidarity, are all part of the mission’s only task: to make the Reign of God present amid our peoples and in our land, in an intimate relationship of fraternity among all beings.
These dimensions, sometimes prioritising one aspect, other times another, should always be present in our mission. And this, without a doubt, is what you are doing in this continent, sometimes prioritising proclamation (which begins with presence, making us “like one of many”) and continuing with the other aspects of proclamation. Other times, strengthening solidarity in community organisation in defence of life, dignity and the rights of people and creation. Justice and peace. And, on other occasions, strengthening dialogue (which begins as a dialogue of life, ending in a dialogue of spiritualities towards mutual enrichment.
How We Are Bearers
There are, fundamentally, two ways to be bearers:
A. like a pipe
B. like a sponge
Like a pipe, like a conductive vehicle that transports a material, with little or nothing of what it transports permeating or getting through to the carrier. The pipe lets the water it carries pass through, but little or nothing penetrates.
The sponge, on the other hand, is permeated with the liquid in which it is immersed or thrown. It retains a good amount of liquid for itself, and it is delivered little by little. It becomes a fountain that flows.
To behave like a pipe in the proclamation and construction of the Kingdom is not to be concerned about the good news we proclaim. There is a risk that the Gospel will become a doctrine, sound doctrine, that converts neither us nor anyone else. So, we will be more concerned about orthodoxy than about orthopraxis and what changes is not what we say, no matter how “politically correct” it may be, but the truly little that what we do.
To be like a pipe is to turn the Gospel into a religion, into a Church, into a rite, into an ethical code, and into a pre-established cultural system.
We already know that doctrines only change our ideas, rather than the heart. The Gospel does not begin with a truth, an idea, or a doctrine, but “with an encounter”, the encounter with Jesus, as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says.
But there is another way to be a bearer, and that is being a sponge, that is, being seized by the realities of the Kingdom, making the cause of Jesus our own, the plan of God, the “Missio Dei”, the “mission of the Spirit”. It is letting God’s spirit transform, permeate our entire being.
The first consequence of following this paradigm is that we become “Good News” for others and permeated, soaked in this good news, we announce it to others. And if we show it, we do not have to prove it.
Read Part 2 next week.
Photo: © Marco Gavasso/CTS