A PROFOUND HUMAN LONGING
Ad Gentes, no. 7, goes on to give the goal of missionary activity and the reasons why the Church continues to carry on this kind of activity. The second paragraph of no. 7 begins with the sentence: “By means of this [missionary] activity the mystical Body of Christ unceasingly gathers and directs its energies towards its own increase (Eph. 4:11-16).” The paragraph goes on to say that the Church does missionary work “because of the charity with which [her members] love God and by which they desire to share with all men the spiritual goods of this life and the life to come.”
The members of the Church then do missionary work out of love for God, for He wants His people, that is all people, to become one in faith and to form that perfect man, that is Christ His Son, with all his members. They realize that He is more pleased by this activity than by any other work, for “God is fully glorified when men fully and consciously accept the work of salvation which He accomplished in Christ.” He wants, “That the whole human race might become one people of God, form one body of Christ and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit.” They realize that all this can only come about in the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ specifically for this purpose.
They also do missionary work out of love of neighbor, for they “desire to share with all men the spiritual goods of this life and the life to come,” as the document says. Here we can think of Baptism and all the sacraments of the Church which strengthen, encourage and cheer us in this life and give us a foretaste of what God has prepared for us after this life.
But that is not all, the document says. Through missionary activity and the entrance of all men into the Church God wants to unite the whole human race. This plan of God for the unity of the human race “answers to a profound longing in all men.” Everyone carries within himself or herself the wish, however vague, that all men be united “in brotherly concord.” God has placed this desire or wish in the heart of man, and the document says that it is fulfilled and fully expressed in the kind of “brotherly concord” that exists among those who belong to His Church.
No. 7 of the document ends with a striking sentence that sums up the reason for God’s creating Adam and Eve in his image: He wanted and wants them and all mankind to be able to stand before Him one day together and pray, “Our Father,” which can come about only through Jesus Christ and His work of Redemption. This is a teaching, called the doctrine of Recapitulation, which is found especially in the writings of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca.135-ca.203).