Bringing the Gospel to the Nations
So far in these articles we have looked at two of the three dimension of the consecrated life that are outlined in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata: Consecration and Communion. The third dimension of the consecrated life outlined in Vita Consecrata is Mission. The way in which this topic is covered in Vita Consecrata is of special interest to our Ecclesial Family of Miles Jesu, since it is described as an “Epiphany of the Love of God in the World.” This is in fact the title of the third chapter of Vita Consecrata. So it would seem opportune to dedicate the next few articles about how we live the consecrated life in Miles Jesu to this topic of mission, since Miles Jesu’s charism and mission is centered around the biblical mystery of epiphany, to bear witness to God’s love and majesty in the world.
As mentioned in the previous article, the purpose of the consecrated life is to make “present the way of life which Jesus himself chose.” (VC, 29) The simplest way to understand the aspect of mission in the consecrated life is to consider the way in which Jesus lived out his mission on earth. Vita Consecrata mentions several different ways in which communities of consecrated life bear witness to the mission of Jesus, becoming themselves an epiphany of Jesus’ life, bearing witness to one or another of the particular ways in which Jesus lived his mission to “accomplish the Father’s will” (cf. Jn. 4:34): through “preference for the poor and the promotion of justice” or “care of the sick” or “education” or “evangelization of culture” or “social communications” or “the promotion of Christian unity and ecumenical dialogue.” (cf. VC, Chapter 3)
Each community of consecrated life dedicates itself to one of these aspects of Jesus’ own mission. The Church exhorts consecrated men and women to “keep before their minds the fact that the Church presents Christ to believers and non-believers alike in a striking manner daily through them. The Church thus portrays Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in his proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in his healing of the sick and maimed, in his work of converting sinners to a better life, in his solicitude for youth and his goodness to all men, always obedient to the will of the Father who sent him.” (cf. Jn. 17:4) (Lumen Gentium, 46)
In Vita Consecrata, John Paul II highlights the primary mission that should drive all Institutes of consecrated life in their particular missions--the call to proclaim the gospel ad gentes, to all the nations (VC, 77). This is an aspect of the missionary dimension of the Church herself and was expressed by the patroness of the missions, St. Therese of Lisieux, from within her cloistered community: “to love you and make you loved.” (VC, 77)
It is within this universal sense of mission that we can reflect on the unique mission of our Ecclesial Family of Miles Jesu. The first question one might ask is to whom are we to bring the gospel? In previous ages, missionary orders in the Church sent their members to the New World or to foreign lands on which no Christian had ever set foot. But as Benedict XVI recently made more clear in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Church is looking for ways to fulfill its mission of evangelization within the context of our own times in which globalization defines the life of every nation, creating both problems and opportunities.
The question of evangelization in our own day and age is defined not so much by where to bring the gospel, but how to make the gospel the uniting force of our globalized society. As is clear from Caritas in Veritate and from the social teachings of the Church, the laity have an immensely important role to play in helping the Church to face today’s challenges of bringing the gospel ad gentes. Our Ecclesial Family addresses these challenges through the lay dimension of our charism. It is this lay dimension which also makes clear to us the particular mission through which we wish to be a manifestation of God’s love in the world.
In Miles Jesu, we take the present secularized condition of the world as our mission field. As briefly described by Pope Benedict XVI in his book, Jesus of Nazareth, this condition is one in which “...the secularity of the state has been transformed into an absolute secularism, for which forgetfulness of God and exclusive concern with success seem to have become guiding principles.” (Chapter 4, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 119)
Our mission in Miles Jesu is one of engagement in the world, in order to bear witness to our own faith, through our own job, particular profession, or sphere of influence. For this purpose we also gather in communities where we can gain the spiritual strength to fulfill our particular profession or occupation in a way that both makes a contribution to society on a human level and that glorifies God.
As “Sons and Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of the Epiphany” we strive, like Our Lady, to be an icon through which those we work with daily can see God’s loving kindness reflected, and so to see the tremendous difference that faith in God makes both in our personal lives and the great difference it can make in transforming society into a place where each person can find his own dignity and value as a child of God.
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