Chapter I: From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church
This number takes up again the connection between the Church and evangelization. The two are closely connected. The Church is the most direct and visible fruit of that activity: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” The Church came into existence gradually as missionaries went into the world and preached the Gospel. They did this starting in the East of the Roman Empire and then spreading to the West. She has been preaching that way right down to our day. People hear the message and then put it into practice and pass it on to those around them. This happened most frequently in families. But not only there; people passed on the faith in other places and situations. Sometimes the Faith was spread by Catholic kings who conquered territories and christianized them. Although this was not the ideal way to spread the Faith, the people who were so coerced came to love their faith.
Once the Church is established, she is sent out herself by Jesus to preach the Gospel. She remains in the world as a sign of God’s presence in Jesus Christ. And she goes about her duty of evangelization. One can see this dynamic at work in many of the developing countries. Places like India and Indonesia, after being catechized, have now become centers of missionary work themselves and send many missionaries out into the world.
Another aspect of the missionary Church is the preaching of the Gospel to herself. She must do this over and over again because there is always danger of her losing her own fervor and zeal. She must herself be fervent, if she wishes to evangelize others.
Church life is not complete without a missionary spirit. Its life-prayer, listening to the word and teaching of the apostles, the practice of brotherly love and the breaking of the bread-cannot attain its full meaning and vitality unless it issues in witness, stirs wonder and leads to conversion, and finds expression in the preaching and proclamation of the Gospel.
The Church is the depository of the Good News that is to be announced to men. Now the message of Good News is not a static thing; it is a living thing. It is the promises of the New Testament, the teaching of the Lord and the apostles, and all the channels of grace, especially the seven sacraments. The Church guards and preserves all these things as the precious gifts of Christ.
Finally, the Church sends out missionaries. She shows them what they must preach. It is not their own ideas, but those of the mind of Christ, for they are his emissaries. .
This number brings out again the close connection between missionary work and the soul of the Church. The Church is built up by it, but the Church is also the place from where it comes into existence.
Mary, patroness and protector of all missionaries, grant them a living sense of urgency about preaching the Gospel to all peoples. Amen.