Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Redemptoris Missio nos. 37-38

Not being a Catholic, I am thoroughly enjoying the readings taken from texts by John Paul II. I have always appreciated him (in part because he is a fellow Pole), yet I find myself increasingly taken with his accurate reading of the state of the church, its role and needs for change and adaptation. It's amazing to learn more about him and his passion for the church as we move along.

In particular, sections of the reading that spoke to me included:

Today the image of mission ad gentes is perhaps changing: efforts should be concentrated on the big cities, where new customs and styles of living arise together with new forms of culture and communication, which then influence the wider population. It is true that the "option for the neediest" means that we should not overlook the most abandoned and isolated human groups, but it is also true that individual or small groups cannot be evangelized if we neglect the centers where a new humanity, so to speak, is emerging, and where new models of development are taking shape. The future of the younger nations is being shaped in the cities.

Speaking of the future, we cannot forget the young, who in many countries comprise more than half the population. How do we bring the message of Christ to non-Christian young people who represent the future of entire continents? Clearly, the ordinary means of pastoral work are not sufficient: what are needed are associations, institutions, special centers and groups, and cultural and social initiatives for young people. This is a field where modern ecclesial movements have ample room for involvement.

Among the great changes taking place in the contemporary world, migration has produced a new phenomenon: non-Christians are becoming very numerous in traditionally Christian countries, creating fresh opportunities for contacts and cultural exchanges, and calling the Church to hospitality, dialogue, assistance and, in a word, fraternity...

As in the reading from week 2, John Paul's identification of the need for the church to achieve both fluency and fraternity in the culture and language of the emerging generations is another reminder that old wineskins and old wine cannot quench the thirst of the world- that requires Christ's new wine, and we must allow ourselves to be transformed and become new wineskins.

This requires us to meet the world where it is, like Christ did, and not be afraid to be in the world, and demonstrate a genuine compassion for the lost that is primarily expressed by consistent presence in the everyday lives of people, immersed in the way that they are while shining, living a hope and way that draws people to Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.

After preaching in a number of places, St. Paul arrived in Athens, where he went to the Areopagus and proclaimed the Gospel in language appropriate to and understandable in those surroundings (cf. Acts 17:22-31)...There is a deeper reality involved here: since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the "new culture" created by modern communications. This is a complex issue, since the "new culture" originates not just from whatever content is eventually expressed, but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating, with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology. Pope Paul VI said that "the split between the Gospel and culture is undoubtedly the tragedy of our time,"62 and the field of communications fully confirms this judgment.

This further confirms our mission as disciples that we not only have a call to evangelize individuals (which we do!), but we are also called to redeem cultures for the sake of the gospel. To simply use a culture as a conduit to pipeline a message demonstrates a contempt for that culture, and those who live within it. If we love the people, we will also learn to love their culture, and allow Christ to walk with us, reach into an entire people and create transformation on a social level. This reminds me of how Hudson Taylor approached his missions work, loving and living his way into Chinese communities.

Our times are both momentous and fascinating.

I love that John Paul II refuses to see our times as anything other than an incredible opportunity unlike any yet seen in history, as a frontier to be pioneered, explored and connected to the gospel like the missions to the new world in the times of Cartier and Columbus. I think it's critical that we approach our call with this kind of zeal and perspective; instead of living under a crushing weight of impossibility and defeatism, we stride boldly into the unknown, trusting God to lead us and empower us with a message and a medium that can and will redeem our time and culture. He did it with the early church under Roman rule without mass media- how much more can we achieve with equal zeal and a host of strategies and tools that have never before existed?

Thanks for the reading- looking forward to discussing this tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment