The missionary is the Christ who constantly passes through the world
(Blessed Paolo Manna)
The Church by its nature is missionary
From the Acts of the Apostles
“After they had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch. They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed presbyters* for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” (Acts 14: 21-27)
“They were sent on their journey by the church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, as well as by the apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them.” Acts 15:3-4)
From the Magisterium of the Catholic Church
“From this source the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom.” (Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 5)
“Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.” (Second Vatican. Council, Decree on the Mission Activity on the Church, Ad Gentes, 7)
“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)
“Having been born consequently out of being sent, the Church in her turn is sent by Jesus. The Church remains in the world when the Lord of glory returns to the Father. She remains as a sign - simultaneously obscure and luminous - of a new presence of Jesus, of His departure and of His permanent presence. She prolongs and continues Him. And it is above all His mission and His condition of being an evangelizer that she is called upon to continue.” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 15)
“There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization.” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization in the Modern World, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16)
“The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, 1)
“The Church is effectively and concretely at the service of the kingdom. This is seen especially in her preaching, which is a call to conversion. Preaching constitutes the Church's first and fundamental way of serving the coming of the kingdom in individuals and in human society.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, 20)
From the writings of Blessed Father Paolo Manna
“The great and sublime mission which Our Lord Jesus Christ, just before returning to the Father, entrusted to His disciples (...) was certainly not to terminate with the death of the Apostles, but to endure, through the medium of their successors until the end of time. (...) The Holy Church of God, remembering the Divine command, has never ceased through the centuries to send out continually heralds and ministers of the Divine Word to announce the tidings of eternal salvation brought to the human race by Jesus Christ.” (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, pp. 5-6 )
“The grandeur (…) character of this mission which Christ has given to His Church (…) is so sublime that (…), Our Saviour has put His whole heart into it. (...) This mission is the channel through which the Christian Faith is diffused throughout the world.” (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. 7)
“The Church is the mother of all mankind. Her field of action is the entire world. All men are sheep in the Fold of Christ, over which He has placed one Head and Pastor, the Pope.” (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. 9)
“The history of the Church is but a magnificent realization of those words of her Divine Founder, ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.’ This command, with the passing of the years, has lost nothing of its first virtue: it urges in all its fullness even today, and will continue to urge as long as there are people for us to make disciples, to baptize, to save.” (P. Manna, Operarii autem pauci! La vocazione alle missioni estere, Milan 1960, op. cit., p. 11)
Questions for reflection
- What is the Church for me? How do I talk about the Church at work, in my family, among friends?
- Do I remember that the Church was founded by Christ and that He continues its work?
- When was the last time I prayed or offered my sufferings for the Church so that it could best fulfill Christ’s mission?
O God, in your Providence you have decided to spread Christ’s reign in the world and to make all people sharers in saving redemption. Let your universal Church, as the sacrament of salvation, unveil and realize the mystery of your love for people. May your Church be constantly renewed, sanctified, and strengthened. Let unwavering faith, holiness, mutual love and true piety develop and spread, constantly nourished with the Word and Body of your Son. Lord, do not cease to guide her with care, so that, animated by the evangelical and apostolic Spirit, she may draw all to you and lead them to unity in your service. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.