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Summary: The nature of the Church is to be missionary.

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Thursday of 28th week in course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

The word we render as “woe” is a transliteration of the Hebrew “oi.” We hear it in movies and TV when a Jew is lamenting over something bad: “oi vay!” But Jesus here is not using it about a situation. He’s using it against the Pharisees: “oi to you who build monuments to prophets murdered by your spiritual ancestors.” He is accusing them of plotting to kill prophets–and Jesus was and is the great prophet. The Pharisees were building up and had built up a Jewish community in which there was a real separation between the elites and the people. You can see that in parts of the NT when Jesus accuses them of abusing the law to benefit themselves and impoverish the little guy. Jesus, on the other hand, intended for the Church to be a true community founded on justice and love, so that nobody went without food or clothing or shelter and everyone looked out for each other. Jew and Gentile alike. St. Paul traveled throughout the Roman world establishing communities founded on those principles.

In the encyclical, Pope Francis now goes on to talk about the social dimension of evangelization: ‘To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world. Yet “any partial or fragmentary definition which attempts to render the reality of evangelization in all its richness, complexity and dynamism does so only at the risk of impoverishing it and even of distorting it.’

He continues, and remember that kerygma is our initial proclamation of the Good News:

‘The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centred on charity. To believe in a Father who loves all men and women with an infinite love means realizing that “he thereby confers upon them an infinite dignity”.[141] To believe that the Son of God assumed our human flesh means that each human person has been taken up into the very heart of God. To believe that Jesus shed his blood for us removes any doubt about the boundless love which ennobles each human being. Our redemption has a social dimension because “God, in Christ, redeems not only the individual person, but also the social relations existing between men”.[142] To believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in everyone means realizing that he seeks to penetrate every human situation and all social bonds: “The Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable”.[143] Evangelization is meant to cooperate with this liberating work of the Spirit. The very mystery of the Trinity reminds us that we have been created in the image of that divine communion, and so we cannot achieve fulfilment or salvation purely by our own efforts. From the heart of the Gospel we see the profound connection between evangelization and human advancement, which must necessarily find expression and develop in every work of evangelization. Accepting the first proclamation, which invites us to receive God’s love and to love him in return with the very love which is his gift, brings forth in our lives and actions a primary and fundamental response: to desire, seek and protect the good of others.

‘This inseparable bond between our acceptance of the message of salvation and genuine fraternal love appears in several scriptural texts which we would do well to meditate upon, in order to appreciate all their consequences. The message is one which we often take for granted, and can repeat almost mechanically, without necessarily ensuring that it has a real effect on our lives and in our communities. How dangerous and harmful this is, for it makes us lose our amazement, our excitement and our zeal for living the Gospel of fraternity and justice! God’s word teaches that our brothers and sisters are the prolongation of the incarnation for each of us: “As you did it to one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). The way we treat others has a transcendent dimension: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2). It corresponds to the mercy which God has shown us: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you… For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:36-38). What these passages make clear is the absolute priority of “going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters” as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift. For this reason, “the service of charity is also a constituent element of the Church’s mission and an indispensable expression of her very being”.[144] By her very nature the Church is missionary; she abounds in effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes.’

The nature of the Church is being missionary: spread the Gospel wherever you go.

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