THE WILL OF GOD
No. 7 of Ad Gentes begins with the following words: “The reason for missionary activity lies in the will of God, ‘who wishes all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, himself a man, Jesus Christ who gave himself as a ransom for all’ (1 Tm 2:4-6), ‘neither is there salvation in any other’ (Acts 4:12). Everyone therefore ought to be converted to Christ.” Here is the ultimate reason for missionary activity: God wills it, for he wants all men to be saved, which is only possible in his Son and our mediator Jesus Christ.
Sometimes our Church is criticized for having grown soft on holding Christ and his Church as the one and only way to salvation. In Ad Gentes we have words from Vatican II that emphasize that truth in all its comprehensiveness. Sometimes the Church has to be content with lesser goals for the moment without, however, sacrificing the final goal. She is in that position today in regard to Islam. At the present time we must seek harmony and cooperation with Muslims, since both of us are under attack by godless forces in the world.
At the same time, however, we must keep praying and working that they too come to know and accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Church as God’s way for all to be saved. The document says: “Everyone ought, by baptism, to become incorporated into him, and into the Church which is his body. Christ himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church, which men enter through baptism as through a door.”
Then the Council Fathers go on to explain the well-known adage, “Outside the Church, no salvation:” “Hence those cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded through Jesus Christ, by God, as something necessary, still refuse to enter it, or to remain in it.” People can get to heaven outside the Church, but only if they don’t know what the Church is and what her mission is. So we must go on bringing her to all men, showing them what she is and inviting them to join her: “So, although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel to that faith without which it is impossible to please him (Heb. 11:6), the Church, nevertheless, still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize.”
Then the Fathers of the Council draw the conclusion to all this, i.e. that missionary work in today’s world is still justified and should be continued: “And so, today as always, missionary activity retains its full force and necessity.” We Mariannhill Missionaries continue this missionary activity in the name of, and for, the whole Catholic Church.