Religious Education Congress 2009
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE LOGOS IN THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
I would like to start my lecture with following feelings: I came from Vietnam, a country being geographically far from you, but conquering the long distance a flight brought me here, among you; I am honored to be here with you at this conference; I feel close to you in spiritual now. Thank God for this condition far, but near. Thank you for your presence here, and I am grateful to you for the opportunity you give me to be here with you.
As the long flight brought me near to you physically, I would like to be closer to you in our lives of faith through my lecture, as a bridge: The Holy Spirit and the Logos in the Mission of Evangelisation in order to link meditation, worriment, searching, building, sharing, and witness of our Catholic faith in the contemporary society.
With this bridge, we go together through following steps: firstly, we convince our mission of evangelisation again in accordance with the Gospel (A); secondly, we study the role of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Church’s mission of evangelisation (B); finally, we discover paths of the Word of God, through which we carry out our mission of evangelisation (C).
WHAT IS THE MISSION?
To be able to answer the question correctly and sufficiently, we must base on the authors of the New Testament, especially the Gospel. Each of the authors has his own viewpoint, but theirs supplement one another, through which we get a diverse and abundant view about the mission.
According to Mark, the mission of evangelization is the mission of preaching the Good News (Mk 16:15), proclamating Christ, making Jesus known to every person as Christ (Mk 8:29), recognizing the Crucified Jesus as the Son of God. (Mk 15:39)
According to Matthew, the mission is establishing and building the Church of Christ, making more and more persons the disciples of Christ (Mt 28:19-20; 16:18). The preaching of the Gospel might be complemented by teaching and celebrating Sacraments.
In Luca’s works, the mission is considered as witness (Luk 24:48; Acts 1:8), especially witness of the Resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22). The author emphasizes “the changing power of the Good News of Resurrection.” He calls upon repentance in order to be rescued from guilt and evil.
The Gospel of John emphasizes the mission as taking over the mission of Christ: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” (Jn 20:21). The mission of the Apostles was built on the mission of Christ and looked at Christ’s mission as example: “As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (Jn 17:18)
The goal of the mission is to bring man to eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn 17:3). Man is invited to join in mutual love between the Father and the Son. Therefore, the first task of the mission is to live in love and unity: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (Jn 17:21).
Thus, a disciple fulfils his mission by his love and life prior to by his words and deeds.
CHRIST AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH
The Church has unceasingly proclaimed Christ. The mission of the Church is to bring man to recognition of Christ as the Savior of the world and the Son of the living God. The proclamation of Christ is not a task of natural field, but supernatural one. It is the task of the Holy Spirit and it is the Holy Spirit who initiates the proclamation with and through the Church. The Church has continuously proclaimed the Good News of the Resurrection, neither with the eloquent technique of terminology nor the worldly wisdom, but with the power and the persuasiveness of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit influences the proclaimer as well as the listener. (Acts 2:37)
Building the Church
Evangelisation is to go out, gather disciples for Christ, lead people to join the Church of Christ through the Baptism, build up Community and the Mystical Body of Christ, establish the Church on the rock of Peter and on the foundation of “the Apostles.”
Christ established the Church, but the growth of the Church has depended on the Holy Spirit. The Church has lived by Christ’s life, namely, the Spirit of the Risen Lord, which has been granted through Sacraments, especially the Baptism and the Eucharist.
Building the Church is also fulfilled by teaching and instructing Christians so that they get a more profound conviction in faith and bear fruits in life. Evangeliasion is to teach people to live the Gospel (Mt 28:20). These tasks are only done with the Holy Spirit and in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is light that enlightens hearts of Christians so that they more and more understand Christ and live according to his teaching.
Witnessing for the Crucified and Risen Christ
Evangelisation is “communication,” sharing others our own experience about Jesus Christ: experience of meeting the Lord, experience of the relationship between ourselves and the Lord, experience of inner happiness and of life received from the Risen Christ. Life and love that we receive from the Risen Christ are the Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ. Therefore, mission is to share our experience of the Holy Spirit, share our spiritual experience.
This experience can be the personal or collective experience. The personal experience is often limited, so each of us should bring cathechumenates and neophytes to other Christians and to the Ecclesial community so that they may be shared in the treasure of faith granted to the Church. (Acts 2:46:47)
The witness of life often accompanies the changing influenceof the Holy Spirit.
Continuing the mission of Christ
Not by temporary enthusiasm that we proclaim Christ, gather disciples for Him, share His life to others, but it is a mission rooted in the heart of the Mystery of Trinity.
As the Father has sent Christ, Christ has sent us to continue His mission (to reveal the love of the Father) as well as to make man know his mission and recognize Him as One sent by the Father.
We are only able to continue Christ’s mission if we understand Him and love Him. We can only understand and love the Lord through the Holy Spirit.
The deepest and the most important in the Father as well as in Christ is the loving communion and the unity between the Father and Christ. Jesus wants man to recognize the unity between Him and the Father, realize Him as One sent from the Father, so that they are joined in the communion of love and life of the Trinity.
It is the communion among Christ’s disciples that is a sign for man to realize the Communion between Christ and the Father. Christians evangelize not only by their words and deeds, but also by their lives and united love.
The Holy Spirit is the communion of love in the heart of Trinity. The presence of the Holy Spirit ensures that love of communion. The Holy Spirit links us together, making us one with Christ and with one another.
THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH AND THE PATHS OF THE WORD OF GO
During his earthly life the Lord Jesus left his family, going on many paths, preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God, sowing the seeds of the Word everywhere. Before leaving for the Father, the Lord Jesus gave the mission to the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:19)
Nowadays, besides the phrase “the field of mission” we have other way of speaking to mention the mission, which is concrete and easy to understand, that is, the phrase “the paths of God.” If there are an innumberable number of the paths of life, the Word of the Lord must be scatter on all of these paths, because the Lord “has entered into the world.”
Kinds of ‘paths’ in our age
Our age has more ‘paths’ than that of the previous times, especially it has a large network of communication that coveres all the globe (internet). We can scatter the Word into any places and under any forms. It is almost sure that the land of man will have opportunity to receive it. Do not hesitate or linger, but bravely do any thing you can to sow the seeds of the Word. Every path of man needs the light of the Word. The darker a path is, the more light it needs.
There are paths on which no one wants to go, that is, the paths of sorrow, unhappiness, abandonment, loneliness, and death. God seems absent on these paths. Seemingly, He keeps silent completely. We are not allowed to be oblivious to these paths, but are called to prepare them for the Lord Jesus because He came down into the world in order to restore what are lost.
Nowadays, the calling to proclaim the Good News becomes really necessary. The people of this age need the light of God more than any ages because they do not find a direction for their lives. Many individuals, groups, nations, and civilizations gradually lose direction. At present, the Church has more opportunities to fullfil the Lord Jesus’ commands: “What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the house-tops.” (Mt 10:27)
A sower has unceasingly to discover new paths, even paths of rocks and thorns. The Word of God enters into these paths to burn down the thorns and expose crimes. But a more important thing is that the Word of God opens the paths of hope, proclaiming the good news of hope to the end of the earth. (Lk 4:18-19)
Let us bring the Christian witness into anywhere: the witness of the kingdom of love and truth, the witness of grace and holiness, the witness of justice and peace, and the witness of the fullness of life.
The path of Beauty
In our times, the path of ‘Beauty’ (via pulchritudinis) is very important. The world, in which we are living, loves art so much. The hearts of people are easy to be affected by artists more than by others. In the world that remains a lot of cruel and evil things deriving from guilt of individuals and society, many people long for both physical and spiritual beauty.
Christians should be proud for the beauty of the Revelation and the Good News that the Church has communicated.
Do not damage ‘the heritage of the Word’ with any complexes, which has been handed over to us through previous generations.
Make artists know the Word of God, love it, and be inspired by it. The Holy Father John Paul II, in the letter to artists in 1999, recalled the idiom of Paul Claudel, a France great poet, “Sacred Scripture has thus become a sort of ‛immense vocabulary,’” and the other of the artist Chagall, according to which Sacred Scripture was considered as ‛iconographic atlas’ (Message to the People of God of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops The 12th world Synod of bishops, number 15)
The path of information technology
On the 23rd January, 2009, the Holy Father Benedict XVI called Catholic youth to bring faith into the world of ‘information’ because they can use new media fast and easily. The topic of the Pope’s message sent on the World Communications Day is: “New Teachnologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue, and Friendship.”
The Holy Father calls: “I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives. […] It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this "digital continent". Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm.” (Message of the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the 43rd World Day of Communications)
The Holy Father mentioned “a connected world” that is formed by the network of nowaday communications. A lot of people get benefit from the culture of communications. Families can communicate each other through a very long distance. Students and searchers can find material, source of data, and discoveries of science fast and easy. Therefore, they can co-oporate one another from different places.
Indeed, this is a sign of time, through which God calls us to do our best to scatter the seeds of the Gospel of Love in order to link every person in one as “the Father and the Son are One.” We are called to build relationship everywhere not only on website and through internet, but also in our actual daily lives. Selfishness becomes behind the times.
If the Church could not possess medium sufficiently to proclaim the Good News to the whole world during two third of the last century because these medium belonged to States or capitalistic corporations, then now every person has chance equally to proclaim what he or she wants. The Church has had opportunity to “proclaim upon the house-tops” what the Lord Jesus told his disciples.
The path of family
There is another path very close to us, on which we are going. It still surrounds us and Jesus likes to use it because it was affectionate to Him, on which He went during more than 30 years of his earthly life. That is the path of family. Since it is so close to us we sometimes lose awareness that it is the most important path which needs the seeds of the Good News.
The 12th world Synod of Bishops reminds us to be concerned about families: “[Therefore,] every home should have its own Bible and safeguard it in a visible and dignified way, to read it and to pray with it, while, at the same time, the family should propose forms and models of a prayerful, catechetical and didactic education on how to use the Scriptures, so that “young men and women, old people and children together” (Ps 148:12) may hear, understand, glorify and live the word of God.” (Message to the People of God of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops 12)
The present world civilization that emphasizes materialism and consumptionism are making the Vietnamese traditional values of family trample from the depth of roots. The pastoral letter of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conference in 2008 on Education in Family observed: “The Vietnamese society in particular and the world in general are strongly changing. This process leads to positive consequences, but also a large number of losses, of which are basic values relating to stability of family-marriage and solidarity among its members” (the Pastoral Letter of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conference in 2008, number 9).
The Vietnamese families, who live abroad, especially the families of young couples, cannot also keep themselves away from common difficulties of the world of today. The stability of marriage is challenged by the temptation of divorce when their conjugal love is broken and their family confronts frictions. Traditional filial piety of Vietnamese people is being underminded by the life-style of the West. Perhaps we should re-evangelisefamilies, endeavour to sow the seeds of the Gospel on the family land, that is, the good news of Jesus’ piety to the Father, the good news of the Father’s mercy, the good news of fraternity between sisters and brothers in a family, the good news of Trinity’s loving communion.
The path of religious dialogue
Living in the world, in which the exchange between different cultures and between different religions becomes universal and normal, we should not put the path of religious dialogue aside. The message of the 12th world Synod of Bishops reminds us: “We, also as Christians, are invited, along the roads of the world - without falling into a syncretism that confuses and humiliates our own spiritual identity, to enter into dialogue with respect towards men and women of the other religions.” (Message to the People of God of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops 14)
The world of today still remains many misunderstandings among religions. At many places the misunderstandings lead to bloody conflicts, especially when these misunderstandings are manipulated by political institutions to support their political intentions. For Jesus’ Good News of love, we should not hesitate to open the path of dialogue. Dialogue will lead to meeting together in the love and truth. Dialogue is truly necessary. It is impossible to be lacked. Dialogue is the path of hope because it never closes, but always tends to free obstructions and open. It is the best path to sow the seeds of the Word of God.
The message of the 12th world Synod of Bishops contents very positive lines about religions: “The Christian also finds common harmony with the great religious traditions of the Orient that teach us, in their holy writings, respect for life, contemplation, silence, simplicity, renunciation, as occurs in Buddhism.” (Ibid.)
Although dialoging with other religions is very important, it is misunderstood by many persons, thereby making messengers of the Good News hesitate. This event strongly motivates the Church to affirm again the Church’s and each Christian’s the mission strongly. Dialogue and proclamation of the Good News do not contradict each other. Dialogue is the path of love and truth and proclamation of the Good News is to sow the seed of the Word of love and truth.
The path of politics and economy
The Church was called to sow the seeds of the Good News into the fields of politics and economy. The global economic crisis of today is a result of unwholesome economic activities, which tend not to support and build common benefits toward human society, but to temporary benefits of some individuals who want to get rich at any cost.
The people of today need an ethics of economy more than ever. The ethics must not be impractical theories, but contribute to direct politics and economy to service of human happiness. In my opinion, human ethics contribute much to develop economy firmly because it is buit on the foundation of love and truth.
Illusions in economy will be fallen down soon or late, and then it causes harmfulness to many persons. Creating illusive values in market to serve personal benefits is a kind of crime, which is similar to robbery and murder. The notion “commerce is a battle,” which was quite popular over the world, is an immoral notion and becomes behind the times now.
On the contrary, the present time is the age of ‘solidarity in business’ and solidarity in development. Absolutely economic monopoly will lead to collapse when no one can affort our products. Today, if a country gets richer, others will also get benefits. A country declines economically, it can draw many others down. At present, the Catholic social doctrine proves to be useful for directing politics and economy.
The path of the ecological environment
The ecological environment of today also needs the seeds of the Good News very much to be respected and preserved. All things were created by God through the Word and in the Word, so all have voice. This voice requires us not to destroy the ecological environment for temporary benefits, nor to make humankind no longer have wholesome living environment. The beauty of the nature is still an infinite source of inspiration for activities of man, even spiritual activities. It enables man to praise God’s infinite love.
Struggling to keep the environment fresh and beautiful not only physically but also spiritually is a vocation that is relevant to every Christian in this time, especially young people. Opposing against the depraved culture and sexy films is one of the most important duties of ours. Many Muslems are worried that Christianity draws them into a morally dirty culture, in which persons relaxatively expose things that rather should be kept secret. They believe that the western world, which they assimilate with Christianity, no longer has “shyness” that is necessary for a wholesome social environment.
Truth, Goodness, and Beauty are still the values essential and necessary for a fresh-beautiful environment both physically and spiritually. The seeds that the Church has sowed will bear fruits of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the human heart and in social environment. It is these seeds that will make the environment fresh and beautiful, decorating the environment to be an excellent house for humankind, who have been called to form into God’s family in the world.
The path of Migration
The phenomenon of Migrant is a big event in the world of today. Imigrants are present everywhere, especially in the United States of America hospitable and free, a country born from many nations in the world, a place that the descendents of the immigrants, though they have come from any country, can get the highest position of authority.
Because of historical conditions, our Vietnam has become a nation with a great number of immigrants, who have lived here and there in all continents. Let us consider it as a fate or the will of God, who wants you, brothers and sisters, to be the gospel messengers in any places you come to. In anywhere you live, you are able to sow the seeds of the Good News.
You can also enjoy common fruits of society, in which you live. Therefore, you have a duty to contribute to build society and the Church in those places. The biggest contribution, which a Christian can do for the country where he or she has been accepted, is to become messenger of the Good News of Love and Truth in that country.
In the Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2009, the Holy Father Benedict XVI considered Saint Paul as both an “Immigrant” and an “Apostle of the gentiles.” Paul carried out the mission of preaching the Gospel and the role of intercession between cultures and the Good News perfectly. Indeed, he is an excellent example for you as immigrants.
Vietnamese Christian individuals as well as communities should clothe themselves with the same enthusiasm of the Apostle Paul, while they communicate the love of God to everyone (Rom 8:15-16; Gal 4:6), in order to win them for God (1 Cor 9:22). Become all things to all men in order, by all means, to save some (cf. ibid.). Be “yeast in wheat flour”, be “salt of the earth” for the environment you are living in and for the places you come to.
The mission, in short words, is “communication” of the Gospel of Christ’s Love and Truth to man in order to “connect” man with God. We carry out this task in the power of the Holy Spirit. The words of Saint Paul, the excellent messenger of the Gospel, are still really necessary for our age: “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? […] So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” (Rom 10:14-17)
With the Sacrament of Baptism received, all of us, bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters, and laity, take part in the mission of preaching the Gospel of Christ’s Love and Truth on different paths of our own life. The necessary and important thing is how the Gospel to resound in everywhere, even in the secret depth of everyone’s heart.
Thus, the preaching of the Gospel of Christ’s Love and Truth starts at each of us firstly, that is, the messengers of the Gospel have to let themselves and their life be changed by the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our preaching can only get power when we are willing to let ourselves be infiltrated by the Word. Only those who are granted Catholic faith pure, mature, and convinced can have real opportunities to preach the Gospel. Only Christians, who sink deeply in the salvific mystery of Christ and get happy during the faith journey of their lives inside the Church, have more opportunities to carry out the preaching of the Gospel effectively, without extremeness. Thus, only messengers who have a passion for God’s love and being imbued with human love have ability to “connect” man with God.
+ Paul Bui Van Doc
Bishop of the My Tho diocese