The Church’s Missionary Transformation

The joy of the Gospel is for all people!1  Perhaps the first place that someone turns to in order to learn about the Gospel, the Good News of Jesús Christ, is the Church.  Chapter one of Pope Francis’ exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is entitled The Church’s Missionary Transformation - he too first looks at the Church.  

 

A missionary joy should exist in the Church.2  If we are to be effective in spreading Christ to all parts of the world then the joy of the Gospel must be in everything that we do.  Spreading the joy of the Gospel involves contact with others, and today more than ever, we are able to reach all parts of the world almost instantly through facebook, twitter, blogs or television.  We, as Christians, are called to take the initiative and spread the Gospel to others.3  We all have different gifts that can be used to spread Christ to all the nations - most important is how we live the joy of the Gospel.

 

Christ founded the Church to bring all nations to Him.  It is a blessing that so many parts of the world have a local parish.  “The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship, and celebration.”4  Local people along with the priests make up the local parish and the joy of the Gospel can be seen in the beauty of ministries that help those in need, in the beauty of patience and endurance in difficult situations, and in the beauty of the liturgy.5  Members of the body of Christ, whether they be priests, sisters, wives, single, students, etc, manifest the Gospel in works of love.6

 

We are connected however to all Catholics, whether we are in the Archdiocese of St. Louis or across the world in the Diocese of Moramanga in Madagascar, and we must work together the mission - “The important thing is to not walk alone, but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.”7  While on this mission we may get dirty or even hurt, but the eternal reward is much greater and worth the cost.8 We are the ones who are going to spread the joy of the Gospel to others - to those around us, our friends, family, neighbors, the sick, the poor, the overlooked.9  Our stories, while painful at times, ultimately are joyful especially if we are making efforts to move closer and closer to Christ.10  There is joy in small victories and in large ones.11

 

The joy of the Gospel is meant for everyone, and we, as Christians, are tasked with extending an invitation to those who feel excluded.12 Joy is meant to be encountered, both in the personal one-on-one meetings between people where we share the good news of God’s love working in our daily lives, as well as the individual’s encounter with Jesús Christ.13  This encounter with God changes us, and calls us to share it with one another - that is to be missionary.14 Pope Francis issues the challenge that we cannot passively and calmly wait in our church buildings; we need to move from a pastoral ministry of mere conservation to a decidedly missionary pastoral ministry. This task continues to be a source of immense joy for the Church: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”15 The Gospel bids us to live in joy and to share that joy with one another.

 

People that look at the Church are seeking transformation, they are seeking Christ and his promise of salvation. We are the ones who are going to deliver this message, the joy of the Gospel.