September 18, 2022
To many it seems like it no longer has a place in our modern world. On the contrary, St. John Paul II, in his document on Missions, calls for a bold renewal of proclaiming Jesus today.
- St. John Paul’s inspiring document Redemptoris Missio “On The Permanent Validity Of The Church’s Missionary Mandate” renews St. Paul’s message in today’s reading: “God… wills everyone to be saved.”
- “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
- The Church, and each one of us, is called to this mission of evangelization.
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
St. Paul made some shocking statements. And in reading, we heard today that most of us probably barely noticed. We had that powerful message from the gospel, “you cannot serve both God and mammon.” But remember, the shocking statement of St. Paul in the second reading, probably most of us don’t. So, I wanted to focus on that. He says, St. Paul with his boldness says, “God, our Savior, wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” wills, everyone, of course, each person. Then He also respects the personal response of each person. But on His part, He wills everyone. And that was very shocking for the Jews to hear, for the pious Jews, to believe that God wanted everyone to be saved. And it was also shocking for the pagans because they had their gods, and they were against the gods of their enemies. And even today, the devil is always trying to create so many divisions. And so, this is still hard for our world to accept today, that God wills everyone to be saved. But he doesn’t just say that. He goes on to say, again, he’s speaking in a world when there’s all sorts of gods, like, I think they say, like the Hindu religion has maybe, I don’t know, maybe millions of gods, or the pagans also back in St. Paul’s time had many, many gods. And St. Paul goes on to say, “For there is one God.” He doesn’t say everybody has their own truth, some people have one god, some people have many gods, it just depends on everybody. He says, there is one God. And then even more than that, that was already bad enough, but then he goes on to say, but “there is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, that there is only one mediator between God and man.” And he doesn’t say we don’t know who that is, it’s different for everybody, he says, “it is Jesus Christ.” He is the one and only mediator for everybody, there is no other way to get to God. And that is shocking. It was shocking back then. And it’s still shocking today. In a world in which we want to be inclusive of everything, and multicultural, then it’s very shocking to hear that there’s only one God and one mediator, Jesus. And this is the truth that inspired the early Christians, for evangelization, and mission work. And many, many martyrs died for this. And this was so different from the Jewish religion – the belief that God was the God of all and wanted all to be saved. And for St. Paul, who had been such a fervent Pharisee, this was such, such a huge conversion. And this spirit has continued through the history of the Church, and the great missionary efforts of the Church down through the centuries. When it’s faithful to the spirit of the gospel, that is a mission, a spirit that is not imposing or forcing, but calling and inviting. But the question is, is this still valid today? Is this in our world in which so much has changed? Is this still true and valid? We all know so many who have lost their faith in God, lost their faith in Jesus, lost their faith in the Church. So, does this still make sense today? And St. John Paul wrote in 1990, he wrote a special document because this passage was very much on his heart, a special document called Mission of the Redeemer. And so that the subtitle was on the permanent validity of the church’s missionary mandate, because he precisely wanted to address these questions. So, he felt called to continue, you know, he was spending so much time going around visiting so many countries because he felt the call to continue. Even the name John Paul, St. Paul, continue St. Paul’s missionary work by his own example. And so, I wanted to share with you today some passages so that you can hear directly, his voice in this document. So first he asked a series of questions. He says some people wonder, is the missionary work among non-Christians still relevant? Or is that just something of the past? Has it not been replaced by inter religious dialogue? And religious dialogue is very important. But does that replace the missionary mandate? And he says is not human development, an adequate goal of the Church’s mission? Human Development is very important. Isn’t that sufficient for the Church? Does not respect, for conscience and for freedom, exclude all efforts at conversion as conversion and trying to convert someone. Is that imposing something on them, and not respecting them in their conscience? Is it not possible to attain salvation in any religion? Why then should there be missionary activity? So, these are the questions that are raised and that he wants to respond to. And the first great point he’s making is the one St. Paul makes, that Jesus is the only mediator. In other words, only Jesus saves, Jesus is our only Savior. St. John Paul says, “peoples everywhere, open the doors to Christ.” And that there is a word which he said at the very beginning of his pontificate, in his very first speech, open the doors to Christ. And what does that mean? That also means that we are free, we don’t have to open the doors to Christ, we can keep our doors closed, each one of us is free, and He respects our freedom. So, this is a call to our freedom, to open the doors to Jesus Christ. He says, “His gospel in no way that detracts for man’s freedom.” The Gospel does not detract from man freedom. He’s the source of man’s freedom. We were talking about that last week. He says, “it does not detract from respect that is owed to every culture, and to whatever is good in every culture.” Jesus in his Gospel respects everything that is good, and every culture. “By accepting Christ, you open yourselves to the definitive word of God,” not just one word of God, among many, He is the definitive word of God, “to the one in whom God has made Himself fully known and has shown us the path to Himself.” And that he says, “The Church’s fundamental function in every age, and especially in ours, (so what would you say that is, what would you say the Church’s fundamental function is today?), here’s what he says, – “it’s to direct man’s gaze, to the mystery of Christ,” to direct us, to the mystery of Christ, to turn us towards Christ. That’s the Church’s role, that’s not the only thing it’s called to do. But that’s the essential, fundamental role, to turn us to Jesus Christ. He says that, for me, it’s very inspiring these words of St. John Paul says, “Jesus Christ is history center and goal. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. “Those are words, he’s quoting Jesus in the Book of Revelations, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” And I’ve said this many times, it’s good to recall it here. What is the name that you’re not allowed to say? Like in a graduation speech, here in America, and so many times, they’ve been prohibited from saying, Jesus Christ. And I said, just I think it was just a couple of weeks ago, how many times in movies and television shows do you hear the word Jesus or Christ as a curse, as an expletive against the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain? And yet Jesus is the only Savior, He is the way the truth and the life. What does that say about our culture, which excludes Jesus, will only use His name as an expletive, what does that say about our culture and its attitude towards Him. Jesus Himself says, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” And St. Peter says, St. Peter boldly to the Sanhedrin said, “there is salvation in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” And St. Paul says, “In Christ, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. For in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” the fullness of God, Jesus, in each one of us, there can be a manifestation of God and His greatness and His goodness, His richness. But in Jesus, there’s the fullness. There’s nothing of God that we need to look for outside of Jesus, in Him is the fullness. And the Father is speaking to St. Catherine of Siena, spoke of Jesus as the bridge. Ralph Martin writes, explains it this way, “One of the primary images that God the Father gave her was the image of Jesus as the bridge between heaven and earth. Beneath the bridge flow, dark and troubled waters, sweeping human beings to destruction. The only way over these satanically ruled waters is to take the path of the bridge, that is Jesus.” So that’s the key point, that only Jesus saves. But who does He come to save? And that’s the other point that St. Paul makes, that God wills everyone to be saved. Again, it also depends on our response, but on God’s part, that invitation is made to all His children. And St. John Paul, writes, “the multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ, riches in which we believe that the whole of humanity can find everything that is gropingly searching for concerning God.” Everything that we need to find about God is in Jesus, we don’t need to look someplace outside of Jesus. It’s all in Jesus. There can be riches in other religions, but the fullness of that richness is in Jesus. And he says, “the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world, our world, which has experienced marvelous achievement, we have made all sorts of like technological and scientific advancements. But a world which seems to have lost the sense of ultimate realities, and have existence itself, as we talked a couple of weeks ago about a world which is lacking wisdom, true wisdom. And in this world, the primary service which the Church has, is to proclaim Jesus Christ. So that’s what he goes on to say, that this is the mission of the Church and “of the Church,” that means us. What he says, “we say with St. Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” And it’s so much in our society is trying to make us ashamed of the gospel, as just the gospel was something oppressive, or old fashioned, outdated. He says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who has faith.” The gospel is offered for salvation, but each person also has to make response of faith. He says, “Christian martyrs of all times, including our own,” right now, in these times that we’re living in so many countries in the world, there are men and women and even children who are giving their lives to be faithful to Christ. “Christian martyrs of all time, including our own, have given and continue to give their lives in order to bear witness to this faith, and the conviction that every human being needs Christ. The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being striving to help man but man who is reduced to his merely horizontal dimension.” So, he said it’s good that the Church be involved in things like education, and hospitals and all sorts of different works to help us but the danger would be to reduce by the Churches’ work to something purely human. “Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all mankind and opens up the wondrous prospect,” he says, “of divine filiation.” That is not just human to reveal that man has not just human needs, but man has a divine call, the call to become a son, or daughter of God Himself. And that’s the Church’s role to reveal this great possibility for men. “The newness of life in Jesus is the good news for men and women of every age. All are called to it. Indeed, all people are searching for it, though at times in a confused way, and have a right,” so even if they don’t know it, that’s what the human heart is always looking for most deeply, and all have a right to know the value of this gift and to approach it freely, emphasizing freedom. “The Church and every individual Christian within her,” so that’s each one of us “may not keep hidden or monopolize this newness and richness, which has been received from God’s bounty, in order to be communicated to all mankind.” So, these great choose Jesus and have the Divine Mercy of God and have Jesus presence in the Blessed Sacrament. That’s not something we can just keep for ourselves. But God wants it for all his children. So, then he focuses on this point in history right now that we’re living. And it’s surprising because as I said, many, many people feel that the missionary time of the Church is over. And listen to what he says. He says, “God is opening before the Church, the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the gospel.” So, he senses that God is acting right now, in a mysterious way, preparing something, he says, “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission, ad gentes.” Ad gentes is the Latin word meaning to the nations. So, it’s not saying it’s time just to give up, just hunker down. He’s saying now is the time to commit to a new evangelization. But he said, it’s not just a human decision. He says, “This is God Himself, who was preparing this. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid the supreme duty to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” And we know that those who need to hear the message of Jesus, it’s not just some people far away, but it’s people very, very close to us. So, St. John Paul is inviting us not to surrender to discouragement when we see the Church in such a crisis, and so many people losing faith, but to trust in God’s Divine Mercy. And sometimes that trust is a heroic trust, heroic faith, even despite all the discouraging things that we’re seeing. God has asked, calling for us and extreme faith, and extreme heroic hope, and sacrifice. There’s a lot more in this document, but I just want to return to some words of what St. Paul says when we consider how can this be done. What are concrete ways that we can do this? St. Paul says, and what we heard today, he says, “first of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgiving, be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life.” So, beginning with prayer, and that’s something we can all do right now during this Mass. Remembering what St. Therese, who was a young nun in her contemplative Carmelite Convent, and yet she was proclaimed later on, co patron of the mission of St. Francis Xavier, St. Francis Xavier went on doing missionary work in many countries, but she was just in her convent. And yet the Church considers her co patron through her sacrifice, through her trust, through her prayers. So, in conclusion, recalling these words of St. Paul, “there is one God, there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” So, the very Mass that we’re living right now is an opportunity to unite ourselves to Jesus, to proclaim Jesus, to confess our faith in Jesus. Did Jesus who is offering His sacrifice, it was just renewed in the Mass offering it for the salvation of all His children. So, with our Blessed Mother, let us adore Jesus and adore with a missionary spirit, to strengthen our own faith, and union with Him, and to intercede for all those who don’t yet know Him, and also to ask how we can be better witnesses, and better instruments, to share the good news of Jesus Christ, so that His graces can flow in us and through us. The grace is of the God who desires that all be saved. And this salvation, we don’t always see it in this earth, but even in those mysterious moments, in which a person is maybe even in a coma, even in the last instance of their life on earth, who knows all the mysteries of God’s mercy that can take place in them? Jesus, we trust in You. Amen.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
First Timothy 2:1-8