TO REVEAL AND COMMUNICATE THE LOVE OF GOD
Paragraph No. 10 is the opening paragraph of Chapter II of Ad gentes, entitled “Missionary Work.” It has three Articles: (1) “Christian Witness,” (2) “Preaching the Gospel and Assembling the People of God,” and (3) “Forming the Christian Community.”
The whole chapter is an explanation of the steps by which the Church establishes itself in a certain area. These steps are basically the following: (1) having some Christians in an area, (2) having them witness about the Kingdom of God, and (3) then forming a community of believers. As in all the documents of Vatican II, here too the Council Fathers’ way of thinking is based on the way Jesus lived and taught. They want the Church to live and act as He did: “[The Church] must implant itself among all these groups in the same way that Christ by his incarnation committed himself to the particular social and cultural circumstances of the men among whom he lived” (Ad gentes, No. 10).
Today, however, with the availability of the new means of communication, people can be introduced to the “mystery of salvation” even before they are introduced to Christians. Just think of the programs of EWTN or other Catholic stations that can be heard and downloaded through the Internet anywhere in the world. And you can be sure that people are doing just that, for the Holy Spirit is working through these new means of communication too. In fact, in many countries at the present time, the only way people can come into contact with the Church is through these media. Their governments do not allow Christians to evangelize.
Nevertheless what no. 10 says is still true, namely: “If the Church is to be in a position to offer all men the mystery of salvation and the life brought by God,” she must implant herself in all the groups and peoples of the world. When Jesus came into the world, he came into one particular culture, one particular history and even one particular land, the Holy Land. Missionaries must do the same when they are sent out.
And there is still plenty to do. No. 10 of the document says: “There are two billion people - and their number is increasing day by day - who have never, or barely, heard the Gospel message.” It seems their number has indeed increased day by day.
Ad gentes, the missionary document of Vatican II, was approved on December 7, 1965. Since then the number of those who have not heard the Gospel message has apparently more than doubled. The figures vary considerably, but generally they say that world population now stands at about seven billion people, of whom about two billion are Christians. That means that now there are about five billion people in the world “who have never, or barely, heard the Gospel message.”
Let us pray the Lord of the harvest for more workers in His vineyard (Mt 9:37f; Lk 10:2).