Mission: Anchored In Living Faith

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The Pope continued: “The present document has, as its goal, an interior renewal of faith and Christian life. For missionary activity renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support” (RM 2). It is John Paul’s view that “in the Church’s history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith” (RM 2).

Note carefully the emphasis that the Pope places on the centrality of faith in accomplishing the Church’s mission. He reiterates this “faith-mission” relationship in other parts of Redemptoris Missio: “It is only in faith that the Church’s mission can be understood and only in faith that it finds its basis” (RM 4). Succinctly stated, the Pope asserts: “Mission is an issue of faith, an accurate indicator of our faith in Christ and His love for us” (RM 11). Mission is the evident fruit of genuine faith: “The Lord is always calling us to come out of ourselves and to share with others the goods we possess, starting with the most precious gift of all – our faith” (RM 49).

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has frequently written and spoken about faith. In his first encyclical in 2005 Deus Caritas Est (DCE) one reads: “Faith tells us that God has given His Son for our sake and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms [us]…. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the Pierced Heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love” (DCE 39). “Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God” (DCE 28).

In his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi (SS), Benedict asks: Is Faith for Christians of today “a life-changing and life-sustaining hope? Is it ‘performative’ for us – is it a message which shapes our lives in a new way, or is it just ‘information’ which, in the meantime, we have set aside…?” (SS 10). “Faith is the substance of hope” (SS 10). “God is the fountain of hope: not just any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety” (SS 31). Such a deep “God-encounter” in faith should necessarily bear fruit in concrete deeds of love, witness, and commitment to mission.

Local bishops’ conferences have also noted the “faith-mission” relationship. For example, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in their 2011 pastoral exhortation “Year of the Pontifical Mission Societies” (YPMS), wrote: “We bishops of the Philippines, wishing to fan the flame of mission, declare the year 2012 as the ‘Year of the Pontifical Mission Societies.’ It is to be a grace-filled year, marked by a renewed enthusiasm for dedicated service as Christ’s evangelizing disciples” (YPMS 2). 

Later, in the same document, in a section entitled “Mission Manifests Faith,” the CBCP (echoing the popes) noted: “As the Philippine ‘Year of the PMS’ will be reaching its climax in late 2012, the entire Church will commence its celebration of Benedict’s ‘Year of Faith’ (October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013). A profound relationship exists between these two year-long activities: faith and missionary evangelization are always interwoven. In his mission encyclical, Pope John Paul II asserted that ‘mission is an issue of faith, an accurate indicator of our faith in Christ and His love for us’ (RM 11). Similarly, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes: ‘Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy’; ‘this Year of Faith … [is] at the service of belief and evangelization’ (Porta Fidei 7, 12). The Pope Emeritus asks for the ‘missionary commitment of believers’ (PF 7): may Filipinos hear and heed the papal invitation to deepened faith and a concomitant mission response!” (YPMS 6).  

 

James H. Kroeger, M.M. has recently published three books on the Second Vatican Council: Exploring the Treasures of Vatican II (Claretian Publications and Jesuit Communications), Documents of Vatican Council II (Paulines), and A Vatican II Journey: Fifty Milestones (ST. PAUL’S). 

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