Chapter I: From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church
In this number the pope describes the transition that takes place from being an evangelized community to becoming an evangelizing community of faith. First, people are gathered together to hear the word of God, the Good News. Then they are called upon to put this new way of life into their way of life, i.e. to take the Kingdom of God into their hearts and to begin to live it in their daily lives. Men, however, must seek out the kingdom of God. This requires effort. They must build the kingdom in themselves by prayer, ascetics and good works. All is grace, of course, but man must cooperate with grace.
In doing so, they form a community and this community “becomes the herald of the Gospel.” Everyone of the Christian community is called upon to be a preacher of the Gospel, each in his own way. We are all called upon to be “a people he claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the One who called you from darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pt 2:9). This holds for everyone in the Church whether clergy or laity.
Each one has been able to hear of these “glorious works” in his own tongue. That has been the big advantage of the liturgical renewal, that everyone can hear the word of God in his own language. The Gospel and the homily were always in the vernacular of the people. But with the coming of the local idioms as liturgical languages, the whole liturgy is in the language of the people. This holds also for the sacraments.
Then the document states a very important fact: not only do believers have the responsibility to make known the Gospel, but also every non-believer has the right to hear about it. “Moreover, the Good News of the kingdom which is coming and has already begun is meant for all men of all times.” That means that every one we meet on the street, all those millions of Chinese workers who make the things we buy in the supermarket, and the criminals in our prisons are all meant to hear the message of the Kingdom. And we must do what we can to bring it to them. The document says that all men of all time are meant to hear the message. How well have we done that? Great work has been done. Think of the great number of missionaries who were sent to Africa and South America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Think of the present time when missionaries are being sent all over the world by some of the countries that have a very small percentage of Catholics themselves, like India. But if we look at the world population and the percentage of Catholics in the world, we can see that much work is still needed until all have heard the message.
Once they receive the message, they also are called to pass it on to others. It is a message about a kingdom that is coming but is already here. It has begun among us. When we are gathered together in the liturgy, the kingdom is here. When we gather to do charitable things, the kingdom is here. When we pray alone, the kingdom is here. If we are baptized, we share in the kingdom, wherever we are.
Mary, Queen of the missions, pray for us.