Chapter I: From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church
No. 16 is the final number of Chapter I, “From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church.” It is a summary of the whole chapter. Its first sentence reads: “There is thus an extraordinarily close connection between Christ, the Church and evangelization.” This is what we have been reading about in Chapter I.
Now is “the time of the Church,” the document says. We are in the time after the death of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus set up his Church to take his place and spread his Gospel. This will go on until He returns in glory. If we want to find Christ now, we shall find him in His Church. For that reason evangelization is the special work of the Church. It is the reason for the Church’s existence. Christ set her up especially for that purpose, i.e. to carry his word all over the world and to preserve it in men’s hearts so they can reach heaven and pass the faith on to the next generation. The Church is always missionary.
These words affect the way we deal with non-Catholic churches. They do a lot of preaching of the Gospel at home as well as in the missions. We are friendly with them and work with them whenever we can, but they do not have a commission from Christ to preach the Gospel.
Then the pope draws our attention to another phenomenon, which we find in individuals, not in institutions. It is a painful fact, the pope says, and it seems it is not uncommon today. People say they want to know and love Christ, but not the Church. This seems to be an attitude that has been adopted especially by young people today.
It seems unrealistic. Can Christ be separated from His Church? When Jesus sent the seventy-two disciples out to prepare the way for his coming, they represented the Church. One of the things he said to them was: “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me, And he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). St. Paul calls Jesus the head of his Church (Col 1:18; Eph 5:23). Can there be a connection closer than the head to the body? Jesus gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25). It’s his institution for keeping his message and his grace alive and pure down through the centuries. It’s his home until he returns in glory.
On the practical side, we only know about Christ because His Church preserved the memory of Him and wrote it down in the Gospels. We would not know anything about Him or have any of the things that he has brought us if there were no Church. This position is absurd, the pope says. It’s like wanting the flower without the stem, or like wanting a drink of water without the glass to hold it.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.