TO ARTICLE 1: CHRISTIAN WITNESS (a)
Paragraph no. 11 falls within the second chapter of Ad gentes under Article 1, “Christian Witness.” In fact, paragraphs no. 11 and 12 make up the whole of Article 1 of the second chapter.
No. 11 speaks of the need for Christians in mission lands to take part in the life of the non-Christian groups to which they have been sent, or among whom they live, in order to make the Church present in those lands. By “the members of the Church who have been sent to these groups,” the document means foreign missionaries, like us Missionaries of Mariannhill. The members of the Church who “live among these groups” are the local Catholics, if there are any. We and they have a common mission: it is “to manifest the new man” to these groups of people, i.e. to show them by our good works what Baptism and Confirmation can do for a person, so that they too may glorify the Father (cf. Mt 5:16), see the true meaning of human life and grasp more completely the unity of the human race. In doing this, they and we are witnessing to Christ, who is the source of all these graces for mankind.
The document enumerates the ways the local Catholics and we are to witness to Christ. First of all, we are to establish relationships of respect and love. Then we are to share in the social and cultural life of these groups. Finally we are to “uncover with gladness and respect seeds of the Word” hidden in their religious and national traditions.
Then the document goes on to say something that is truly an insight from the Holy Spirit: “[Missionaries and local Catholics] must look to the profound transformation which is taking place among nations and work hard so that modern man is not turned away from the things of God by an excessive preoccupation with modern science and technology.” What the Fathers of the council are saying is that, while learning all we can about the culture of the people to whom we are sent, we missionaries and local Catholics in mission lands should be aware that these cultures are in a profound crisis by the spread of Western culture.
All peoples and groups of human beings in the world are being invaded by this Western culture through the many means of communication and the world economic system (“globalization”) today. This has some good effects. All peoples are adopting certain values of our Western culture that still go back to Christianity. On the other hand, Western culture’s preoccupation with modern science and technology has unfortunately attracted and captured many people, even in mission lands. The document says that we in the missions “must work hard so that modern man is not turned away from the things of God,” by these things, “but rather aroused to desire, even more intensely, that love and truth which have been revealed by God.” Let us ask the Holy Spirit how best to do this.