<<May the shining example of the many witnesses to the faith whom we have remembered during the Jubilee sustain and
guide us in this confident, enterprising and creative sense of mission. For the Church, the martyrs have always been a seed of life. Sanguis martyrum semen christianorum: this famous “law” formulated by Tertullian
has proved true in all the trials of history. Will this not also be the case of the century and millennium now beginning? Perhaps we were too used to thinking of the martyrs in rather distant terms, as though they
were a category of the past, associated especially with the first centuries of the Christian era. The Jubilee remembrance has presented us with a surprising vista, showing. us that our own time is particularly
prolific in witnesses, who in different ways were able to live the Gospel in the midst of hostility and persecution, often to the point of the supreme test of shedding their blood. In them the word of God, sown in
good soil, yielded a hundred fold (cf. Mt 13:8, 23). By their example they have shown us, and made smooth for us, so to speak, the path to the future. All that remains for us is, with God’s grace, to follow in their
footsteps>> (NMI 41).
f) To evangelize based on the confidence and optimism we get from the constant, acting presence of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit urges the Church to <<put out into the deep>>. Stagnation is
not characteristic of the Spirit of Christ or of an authentic Christian. There has always been a tendency in the Church to stop, to examine the difficulties and its own possibilities too much, and to look backwards
after putting its hand on the plough.
As we can deduce from the warnings of Revelation, the first Christian communities also tended to get weary, to be apathetic and to grow cold spiritually. <<Write to the angel of the church in Ephesus and say, Here is the message of the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand and who lives surrounded by the seven golden lamp
stands: I know all about you: how hard you work and how much you put up with. I know you cannot stand wicked men, and how you tested the impostors who called themselves apostles and proved they were liars. I know,
too, that you have patience, and have suffered for my name without growing tired. Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love now than you used to. Think where you were before you fell; repent
and do as you used to at first or else, if you will not repent, I shall come to you and take your lamp stand from its place. It is in your favor, nevertheless, that you loathe as I do what Nicola tans are doing. If
anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life set in God’s paradise>> (Rev 2:1-7).
For this reason, at the end of the Letter NMI, Pope John Paul II calls us to hope and enthusiasm and to put out into the deep, sustained by the Holy Spirit, with
Christ’s promise that he will not leave us orphans, but be at our sides until the end of time (Cf. Mt 28:20), together with Mary, the Mother of the Church and Star of the new evangelization. Of course, we have the
strength of the Eucharist, especially the Sunday Eucharist where we can meet with the Lord like the two from Emmaus.
Our pace at the beginning of this new century, therefore, will have to grow faster as we travel over the byways of the world. The paths are many over which each one of
us from our Churches walks, but there are no distances between those who are united by the one communion, the communion that is nourished every day at the table of the Eucharistic Bread and the Word of Life. Every
Sunday the Risen Christ summons us again as in the Cenacle, where as the <<first day of the week>> (Jn 20:19) grew dark, he appeared to his own to <<breathe>> the life-giving gifts of the Spirit upon them and start them off on the great adventure of evangelization.
g) The new evangelization has to pay special attention to the pastoral care of vocations, youth, the family and the laity
We are all sent into the vineyard. The mission cannot be understood as something for the <<bravest ones>> who are capable of leaving their homes, town and country to go far away. It is everyone’s duty to proclaim the Gospel. In every corner of the world, the Kingdom of God must be set up. For this, it will be necessary to promote the lay vocation, movements, associations, the pastoral care of vocations, the family and youth.
<<Therefore the Church of the Third Millennium will need to encourage all the baptized and confirmed to be aware of
their active responsibility in the Church’s life. Together with the ordained ministry, other ministries, whether formally instituted or simply recognized, can flourish for the good of the whole community, sustaining
it in all its many needs: from catechesis to liturgy, from the education of the young to the widest array of charitable works... There is a pressing need to implement an extensive plan of vocational promotion, based
on personal contact and involving parishes, schools and families in the effort to foster a more attentive reflection on life’s essential values. These reach their fulfillment in the response which each person is
invited to give to God’s call, particularly when the call implies a total giving of self and of one's energies to the cause of the Kingdom>>. (NMI 46).
3. Some current challenges facing the Church's missionary activity
John Paul II is aware that our era presents some particular features or challenges that will have to be kept in mind in evangelization in order to give them an adequate
response based on Christ’s message. Among others, the following stand out: inter-religious dialogue, the search for peace, the phenomenon of globalization, and inculturation.
There is no doubt that the present has its challenges. The Spirit never leaves us inactive and paralyzed, satisfied with our achievements, or distressed by the goals
that have not been attained. Life is always new. The whole immense, complex area has grown of ecumenical, inter-religious dialogue and contacts with exponents of other religions and cultures, religious pluralism,
forms of fundamentalism, efforts for peace, and the coming together of cultures, races and religions.
In our relations with our separated brethren or with members of other religions, a sincere dialogue must be set up, which is listening and being listened to, based on
respect love and fidelity to the Gospel message, while seeking more what unites us rather than what divides us. Here, too, it is necessary to have confidence and hope in God’s action, because very beautiful times
are starting to be seen even in the midst of difficulties and darkness. The Church is asked to be faithful to the Spirit and the message of its Master, deep prayer, conversion and great respect for the values of our
<<A new century, a new millennium are opening in the light of Christ. But not everyone can see this light. Ours is the
wonderful and demanding task of becoming its “reflection” ...This is a daunting task if we consider our human weakness, which so often renders us opaque and full of shadows. But it is a task which we can accomplish if we turn to the light of Christ and open ourselves to the grace which makes us a new creation>> (NMI 54).
<<In the Third Millennium, Christianity will have to respond ever more effectively to this need for inculturation.
Christianity, while remaining completely true to itself, with unswerving fidelity to the proclamation of the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, will also reflect the different faces of the cultures and peoples
in which it is received and takes root... Christ must be presented to all people with confidence. We shall address adults, families, young people, children, without ever hiding the most radical demands of the Gospel
message, but taking into account each person’s needs in regard to their sensitivity and language, after the example of Paul who declared: “I have become all things to all men,
that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22). In making these recommendations, I am thinking especially of the pastoral care of young people. Precisely in regard to young people, as I said earlier, the Jubilee has given us an encouraging testimony of their generous availability. We must learn to interpret that heartening response, by investing that enthusiasm like a new talent (cf. Mt 25:15) which the Lord has put into our hands so that we can make it yield a rich return>> (NMI 40).
c) Ecology, peace, fundamental human rights and the defense of life
In the missionary task, some important themes must be taken into consideration such as ecology, peace, fundamental human rights, and the defense of life. An incarnated
spirituality is needed and the ability to go beyond a hidden, individualistic religion, in fidelity to Christ and man, even if we will not be understood in some cases or even scorned.
<<And how can we remain indifferent to the prospect of an ecological crisis which is making vast areas of our planet
uninhabitable and hostile to humanity? Or by the problems of peace, so often threatened by the specter of catastrophic wars? Or by contempt for the fundamental human rights of so many people, especially children?
Countless are the emergencies to which every Christian heart must be sensitive.
A special commitment is needed with regard to certain aspects of the Gospel’s radical message which are often less well understood, even to the point of making the
Church’s presence unpopular, but which nevertheless must be a part of her mission of charity. I am speaking of the duty to be committed to respect for the life of every human being, from conception until natural
death. Likewise, the service of humanity leads us to insist, in season and out of season, that those using the latest advances of science, especially in the field of biotechnology, must never disregard fundamental
ethical requirements by invoking a questionable solidarity which eventually leads to discriminating between one life and another and ignoring the dignity which belongs to every human being>> (NMI 51).
d) Globalization, the great themes of bioethics, social justice, the institution of the family and conjugal life
In this direction, we can cite some other challenges and problems that Pope John Paul II mentioned in his final homily at the 2001 Consistory. This endorses and expands
what he said in NMI: secularization, the general transformation of the cultural horizon dominated by the primacy of the experimental sciences inspired by the criteria of scientific epistemology, the phenomenon of
globalization, the major themes of bioethics, social justice, the institution of the family and conjugal life.
In the same way, in speaking to the members of the PIME (June 1, 2001), the Holy Father acknowledged that humanity is facing many problems that influence missionary
activity. Specifically, he mentioned globalization, ethnocentricity, the temptation to construct a <<do-it-yourself>> religion, <<the closing of quite a few countries to the presence of missionaries and direct evangelization>>, and the aging of the
members working in the mission.
In Christ, dead and arisen, we are certain that all these challenges are a grace, and that they will serve the good of the Church and humanity. What is needed now is to
tackle them in conformity with the principles listed earlier.
To sum up everything that has been said, we have to say that the <<missionary dimension>> of the Church appears constantly in NMI, or, in other words, that the entire content of NMI has a missionary meaning and direction, whether it is understood as the <<new evangelization>> or the mission ad gentes.