The Mission of the Church is the Mission of Christ
(Blessed Paolo Manna)
The Missionary Consciousness of the Church
From Sacred Scripture
“When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He answered them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 1:6-8)
“If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!” (1 Cor 9:16)
From the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
“The Church, sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations, is aware that there still remains a gigantic missionary task for her to accomplish.” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Mission Activity on the Church, Ad Gentes,10)
“The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth (Cf. Acts 1:8). Wherefore she makes the words of the Apostle her own: ‘Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1Cor. 9:16) and continues unceasingly to send heralds of the Gospel until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 17)
“The Church knows this. She has a vivid awareness of the fact that the Savior’s words, ‘I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God,’ apply in all truth to herself: She willingly adds with St. Paul: ‘Not that I boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty that has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it’ [...] Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14)
“We believe that it is a duty of the Church at the present time to strive toward a clearer and deeper awareness of itself and its mission in the world.” (Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Ecclesiam Suam, 18)
“The mission of the Church, like that of Jesus, is God’s work or, as Luke often puts it, the work of the Spirit. After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the apostles have a powerful experience which completely transforms them: the experience of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit makes them witnesses and prophets (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:17-18). It fills them with a serene courage which impels them to pass on to others their experience of Jesus and the hope which motivates them. The Spirit gives them the ability to bear witness to Jesus with ‘boldness.’” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, 24)
From the writings of Blessed Father Paolo Manna
“From the day that coming out of the cenacle, the Apostles, filled with the Spirit of zeal, proclaimed to Jerusalem the words of eternal life, until the present day, always, the Church has been aiming at its goal with a constancy unknown to human institutions, a luminous proof of its heavenly origin. In a word, the apostolic spirit with which the Christian society was filled at its origin has been perpetuated to the present day, and by it the Church lives.” (P. Manna, Operarii autem pauci, La vocazione alle missioni estere, Milan 1960, p. 12)
“The mission which the Church fulfills today is the same as that of Jesus Christ, Who promised to be with His Apostles and their successors until the end of time.” (P. Manna, The conversion of the pagan world. A Treatise upon Catholic Foreign Missions, translated and adapted from the Italian of rev. Paolo Manna, M. Ap. by rev. Joseph F. McGlinchey, d.d., Boston, Society for the propagation of the Faith 1921, p. 6)
“She [The Church] has always been actively engaged in gaining new peoples to the true Faith.” (P. Manna, The conversion of the pagan world. A Treatise upon Catholic Foreign Missions, translated and adapted from the Italian of rev. Paolo Manna, M. Ap. by rev. Joseph F. McGlinchey, d.d., Boston, Society for the propagation of the Faith 1921, p. 10)
“Jesus founded the Church and created the Apostolate to establish the Kingdom of God in the world. The Apostolate must therefore be a wise, uninterrupted, untiring effort toward the achievement of this great, noble, glorious purpose to make God and His Son Jesus Christ reign over all people on earth.” (P. Manna, Osservazioni sul metodo moderno di evangelizzazione, Bologna 1979, p. 37)
Questions for reflection
- How do I actively engage in the missionary and evangelizing work of the Church?
- How often do I ask the Holy Spirit to be my help and guide?
- Do I care for my ongoing formation (spiritual, intellectual and moral) so that I can speak wisely about the Church and be its witness in the world?
Thank you Lord, for the beauty of your Church, the magnificence of its saints, the boldness of the founders of religious orders and movements, the zeal of the converts, the zeal of the clergy, the self-sacrifice of those who commit themselves, and for the zeal of the missionaries.
Thank You Lord for a Church that is still aware of the task You have entrusted to her and, every day in different ways, courageously brings the Gospel to the world.
Lord, I belong to Your Church. Cleanse me from sins and offenses, that the whole Church may be purer and holier. Multiply mercy in every baptized person, that the Church may better witness Your love.
Increase in each of us zeal in proclaiming the Gospel, that the Church may lead every person to God’s Love. Amen.