Contemporary Mission

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Frank Reagan, SSC

Tne of the signs that the Spirit still blows where she wills is the continued interest in the mission of the church today. The malaise, the abandonment, ageing congregation, post-modern scepticism, the fossilization and centralization of church structures, the "accidentalism" of the church etc have had a positive impact. They have provoked once again the old question: what is the mission of the church today?

We all have an implicit missiological paradigm. We don't call it by that name. We would rather say: "This is the way I do it." I feel the need to highlight some of the elements of my own way of doing mission so that you will know where I am coming from.

For me, mission is about proclaiming from a stance of solidarity with the poor the Good News of peace (fullness of life), justice (right relationships) and holiness (indwelling). This implies doing the Good News, which suggests to me now - as it did when I lived in Peru - finding ways of making effective and visible in community the Good News I tried to proclaim. Out of that flowed my experience trying to be Good News and taking seriously my own personal spiritual journeying and growth in company with those I journey with on mission.

I understand that mission is about evangelization, proclaiming from a stance of solidarity with the poor the Good News of peace (fullness of life), justice (right relationship with all of creation), love (grace of intimacy with God), and holiness (indwelling in God's Trinitarian life).

The word we proclaim is a transforming word and so must have an effect on how society functions economically, politically, culturally etc especially regarding the poor and victimized. It is an incarnate word and so immerses the Christian community in society and world. There it seeks reconciliation and justice, builds up the human/ecological, shares the story of Jesus Christ and convokes to communion. It is an eschatological word and so celebrates the Eucharist until all of humankind can eat and drink at the same table in the Reign of God.1

Facing Turbulent Change

The prophetic Martin Luther King was fond of referring to the legend of Rip Van Winkle.3 Rip lived in Sleepy Hollow. Returning to his cabin one fine day, he stopped off at the local inn for a few pints of ale. He drank his fill and left for his cabin. The last thing he noticed was the sign above the inn's door. It was painted with a picture of George III, the then ruling British monarch. Rip, a little tipsy, lay down by the side of the road and fell asleep. When he awoke he found he had grown a long gray beard and felt stiff in his bones. He hurried back down the mountain and came to the inn. There he found a different sign painted. It was a picture of George Washington, first President of the newly independent United States of (North) America.

The point that King used to make was that Rip had slept through a revolution. Big changes had occurred and he had slept soundly on without being in the least disturbed.

Our culture and church have gone topsy turvy. Points of reference have been lost and webs of meaning have been torn. In the last forty years or so we have been in the midst of two tumultuous cultural transitions.

In the first we passed from being a church relatively immured from the modern world and its Enlightenment culture to a post-Vatican II church in dialogue with that secular culture and at the service of the world shaped by that culture.4

In the second transition we find ourselves going from a modern culture to a post-modern one. This is the culture born from the ashes of two world wars, the economic depression and the holocaust. The post-modern milieu is darkly pessimistic and distrustful of the notion of progress without limit, and rationality as a basis for truth and knowledge. It spurns all metanarratives be they marxist, Christian or capitalist. It tends to be more group orientated and finds truth in the community. It is holistic and open to the spiritual, but not to institutional religion. The post-modern is relativistic and pluralist. It does not mind combining elements from traditions thought to be incompatible. The "right thing" or "right answer" is a matter of social context.5

In his book, "The Post-Modern Condition," Jean-Francois Lyotard laments the loss of narrative as a source of meaning. For the post-modern person, he says, there are only facts, bytes and data. We who come from a religious tradition grounded in certainty can feel ill at ease in this type of a cultural situation. We have our own story generated by the founding impulse in the broader context of mission history, and rooted in God's mysterious plan of salvation.

But two cultural transitions in the space of thirty years or so is a huge jump to have to make. Cultural change takes four or five generations. So many of us have been living in Sleepy Hollow. In our semi-dormant state we do not know how to take the tensions of letting go, of acquiring a new cultural idiom. We wonder if we are still sleeping, will the nightmare ever end, when will the breakthrough to certainty occur.

Indeed the rumbles and quakes of culture shock, the birth of new mission paradigms and the trial-and-error remapping the way of mission were not felt in many missionary Sleepy Hollows. The revolution happened while many slept.

The Impact of Vatican II

Vatican II was a freeing yet tension-laden, chaotic experience. Enda McDonagh in a recent article reminds us that the "ecclesial view of Vatican II overturned many clerical privileges and prejudices with its emphasis on church as primarily people, its recognition of separated Christian communities as sister churches, its openness to dialogue with non-Christians and its ringing endorsement of religious freedom for all."6 Overseas missionaries felt the tension and lived the chaos.

A few years after Vatican II the bishops held a Synod in Rome on the subject of "Justice in the World." They concluded that "action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel" (#5).

Very quickly the challenge of the irruption of the poor onto the stage of history made itself felt. They protagonized their own development and liberation projects with all of their contradictions and ambiguities. Missionaries in Latin America and the Philippines were caught by the ebullience of sometimes revolutionary energies. The march of the poor questioned to the core their understanding of the vocation to evangelize. The documents of Medellín, the encyclicals Populorum Progressioand Evangelii Nuntiandi and the theology of liberation--all prior to the synodal document on Justice in the World--set the missionary scene and orientated the remapping of the missionary path.

Inevitably the forces of imperial reaction and ecclesiastical fear set in. How to control the newly released energies? How to re-establish law and order? How to re-impose discipline and strict orthodoxy?

Missionaries had to rethink mission in the midst of a world undergoing accelerated change, instant communications, revolutionary cultural movements, neo-liberal globalization, the emergence of the Asian tigers and the Chinese juggernaut, the winning of the Cold War with the USA remaining as sole imperial power, a trillion dollar a day currency transfers, ethnic strife, ecological devastation and so on.

The renewing understanding of mission continued to expand. The experience of reaching out to the poor of Asia and the South Pacific opened the ears and hearts of missionaries to new insights and intuitions. They began to perceive a message coming from the religious wisdom of our peoples. It was a message colored and flavored by the experience of abject poverty and adherence to millennia-old religious traditions.

As the newer understandings of mission began to grow there were misunderstandings. Some missionaries articulated their understanding of mission in a more liberationist mode. They came out of an experience of political oppression, social upheaval, confrontation with marxism and neo-fascism. Others spoke of a dialogue of life and faith. Their experience was of the non-Christian cultures surrounding them. They discovered the Spirit of God speaking through their people's experience of life and struggle. Mission was to the poor and to their culture of poverty. Paradoxically their poverty brought them nearer to God. At times there was a clash between the two missionary modes based on a perception that dialogue which implies personal narrative and shared experience, could lead to abdicating social involvement. In fact dialogue has preceded and not substituted action.

A unified vision is appearing. The vision finds its far horizon in the reign of God announced by Christ. Nearer, on the plain of the "terrible ordinary" of everyday mission, the missionary seeks to announce the Gospel from a stance of solidarity with the poor, in an attitude of dialogue of life and faith which seeks to understand the religious and cultural experience of the surrounding community. Thus we share the abundance of God's holiness, justice and life with the local church and with men and women of good will.

Paradigm Shift

There has indeed been a shift in the tectonic depths of mission understanding. With glacier-like slowness the church on mission is revising its understanding of mission Ad Gentes.

For many people the world mission has negative connotations. The modern history of mission is a story of conquest of souls taking place within a wider project of empire building, monopoly trade and cultural imperialism. The indigenous peoples of North and South have barely survived after a genocidal assault. African slaves were baptized by the hundreds before being loaded onto the ships or shortly after disembarkation. Japan closed its ports upon finding out that Spanish missionary activity was in function of trade. And China received the Christian West's religion only after two humiliating wars.

More recent mission practice and theology has come to esteem the way missionaries relate to the people to whom they go. Relationship has become a core value in the doing of mission. Community is its vehicle. The sharing of life and faith is its dynamic.

The approach of the missionary has become more incarnational and less removed from the people's everyday lives. Many have been surprised by God's Spirit present and active in the people's values and aspirations, and in the simplicity and solidarity of their daily living. The experience of relationship as foundational of mission has prompted a rediscovery of Trinitarian mission. In the beginning was the relationship and it is through the prism of Trinitarian relationship that our Christian tradition contemplates the oneness of God. God relates as community. The fruit of that relationship is life and creation which God has made for union and indwelling with him. The Trinitarian relationship is a dynamic (Let us create...) relationship. The early theologians called the dynamics of the relationship mission, i.e. sent. Each person is sent to the other as Father, Son, Spirit or Mother. The Trinity embraces all of life and invites us all to "perichoresis" which is to say indwelling or intimacy. Or, more literally, to dance, which is the literal meaning of the word.7 Dance was the first act of worship and we are all children of the beat which we first heard in the maternal womb, the maternal heart beating with love.

God gives to all of creation the gift of peace, shalom, the fullness of life and blessing. The first fruit of peace is justice. Justice is the practice of right relationships in a loving, freeing, nurturing and growthful way. This extends to all levels from the family through society including the environment. Justice is the first sign of God's love in our midst just as joy is the first sign of God's presence in our hearts. That is the good news of a God who wants to relate to her creation in a loving, freeing, creative and fulfilling way.

And so mission is about how the church relates to the world and its peoples. Thus she is sign and sacrament of how God relates to her world. Such a church will be a servant of all peoples' search for God, giving witness of her own experience and being enriched by others' experiences. She is confident that a loving God is calling all peoples to know him. Theologians call that Missio Dei. God wants all of creation within her embrace. The sent church is the servant of that embrace. Consequently we are baptized not for the church but by the church for the life of the world. There is no salvation outside the world (Schillebeeckx). God's Spirit is present blowing and giving life where she will, usually in the most unexpected places and people. The sent church points to that life, nurtures it and denounces any attempt to suffocate it.

That is what Jesus was about. He was sent at baptism for the life of the world, anointed to bring to the poor good news of peace and never-ending Jubilee. He was an expression of God's mysterious purpose for the world. His fidelity to God's will made possible the creation of a new humanity, men and women who would do even greater things than Jesus did because God's Spirit urges, empowers and emboldens them. Not all these are Christians, but, knowingly or unknowingly, they are God's.

Mission is about what Jesus did: healing and building up the human as a sign of God's gift of peace, the reign he longed for and died for. To do that he engaged the powers and domination whose gods are mammon  (wealth), Mars (war, arms dealing, nuclear deployment etc), Venus (heedless sexualization of human relationships) etc. Our engagement gives witness of a reign whose hallmarks are love, peace and life in abundance.

Missionary Challenges Now

1. Globalization is the most conspicuous example of cultural change today. We are in a process whereby a naked capitalism, driven by profits, bottom line totals and investors' greed is becoming universal. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair repeat the same canard: there is no alternative!

The process has five fundamental features: it is based on finance, which means non-productive capital; it operates mostly in cyberspace; it produces wealth without the poor, that is, it needs literate, easily trained workers be they in the Philippines or Taiwan; its dynamic is marketing, everything is merchandize, even ideas, body parts and human gene material; it feeds off the earth, devouring material and human wealth.

The onward march of that process is being challenged by more than 10,000 NGO's and individuals concerned. They have made themselves heard and felt at Birmingham, Cologne, Seattle, Prague etc. These protests mark the birthing of a global civil society in which missioned Christians can be the salt of the earth, the leaven in the dough. Over against globalization we can build an ecumenical missionary witness.

2. The church is universal but not yet ecumenical and inclusive. Our church excludes from communion or alienates people who are divorced and remarried, those who seek annulments, women who have had an abortion or who are using contraceptives, non-practising Catholics, AIDS victims, homosexuals, laicicized priests, etc.8

We are a far cry from the scene in Mt 22:10 where the servants "went out into the streets and gathered everyone they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests." The invitation list gets shorter and shorter with the passing of time. How to do mission to a world of sinners in the midst of structural injustice and invite to communion those sent out from a church which seems to be only for the pure?

We do not recognize the ministerial gifts of women. We have never said that women do not, cannot, receive a vocation to ministerial priesthood. We have said that we will not ordain them. What is our missionary response? How can we build a truly inclusive church?

An ecumenical church can no longer cluster around Rome. The church is one yet diverse, with a potential for speaking in thousands of languages and clothing herself in thousands of cultures. Indeed new Romes and Canterburys are springing up where different experiences of Christian life, praxis and faith are being translated into worship, spirituality, ethics, theology and Christian formation.

Many centuries ago Christianity brought to fulfillment the religion of Israel. Today ecumenism has appeared to bring o fulfillment the religions of the world as they search gropingly for the one God.

Never before have they met on so many different fronts. There are wonderful instances of dialogue and collaboration, but also sad ones of sectarian hatred and ethnic cleansing. Dialogue can open to us the universe and sanctuary of other people's experience of God and transcendence. We need to learn the language of a broader, more inclusive ecumenism which can communicate with other faiths. This can lead us to join together in the sphere of social ethics and world peace, of base human communities, of projects which build up and nurture the human and protect the planet's life systems and of worship of the one God who has created us all and who has destined us all for life with her.

3. We live in an age of the laity. They share in the baptismal priesthood and missionary call of Jesus. Somehow we must recover the lay roots of Jesus' priestly identity--he was a lay man-- and the baptismal call to mission of both clergy and laity. We are blessed with a cloud of witnesses who are lay saints of our time: Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Oscar Romero, Thomas Merton, Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Simone Weil and others. They have gone out to God's world and have challenged a post-modern, post-Christian culture already in crisis. They inspire the birth of an ecumenical world culture and are the pioneers in invoking the formation of a global civil society.

The experience of laity on mission raises questions about where the flow of missionary life lies, and hence the future of the Church's cross-cultural mission.

The Chilean theologian Pablo Richard speaks of a church of ants and spiders. The ants build community for the church and the world. The spiders weave networks for communication, coordination and exchange. Every once in a while they become visible and audible as for example at Cologne and Seattle and Prague. There they joined their voices with those of other faiths and to denounce prophetically economic and political structures like the WTO and the IMF whose policies inflict the death of 60,000 powerless and hungry every day.

4. One of the largest groups of ants and spiders are our migrant workers, legal and illegal. The church has spread around the world much more as a consequence of migrancy than of overseas mission. Before it was the wave of Irish, Italian, German, Greek, etc. Nowadays it is a bigger wave of Filipinos and Latin Americans. (The same goes for Islam.) They build up communities and networks based on solidarity, defense of the illegal and relief of the unemployed. They bring their religious values and beliefs with them and gradually, over many years, permeate their surroundings with them. Mission is happening as it did 2000 years ago. The faith is carried abroad by refugees, the persecuted and people on the run. What does that say to us?

The mission is of God, not of the church. God will carry it to fruition whether the church joins in it or not. Where there is healing, solidarity, justice, liberation, empowerment and loving encounter there is God in mission, in a relationship with a humanity he loves and with which he seeks union.

5. The traditionally mission sending regions are now places for mission. We have never before done mission in the "belly of the beast." The experience, too recent for a detailed evaluation, is putting us in touch with missionary issues which we saw only from the south. These issues are the plight of migrant workers, asylum seekers, refugees and illegal immigrants. Another issue being faced is the growth of urban poverty with its inevitable social consequences. We are also in touch with the process of globalization through our activism in the Jubilee 2000 Campaign. International networking among missionary groups is now a reality.

But there are newer challenges that face us. Doing mission in the centers of empire puts us face to face with the issue of peace and non-violence. We live in huge arms factories (USA and Britain). Recently arms exports have affected situations of religious and ethnic conflict. Cross-cultural mission must say a resounding "no" to war, arms sales, bombing of civilian populations, the laying of landmines and nuclear stockpiling. Reconciliation has acquired increased relevance in the mission agenda.

Mission in the so-called first world regions allows us to speak of missionary interchange between churches and of making local churches more missionary. It also recognizes a church on mission everywhere she is, which is here as well as there.

6. Mission is now "on-line." We are now attempting to announce the good news in cyberspace. Thousands have visited our websites even though we are a small cluster among millions.

We have a double challenge to face. There is a new gap, that between the "knows” and the “know-nots." The need to think about mission there is obvious. There is something else going on, much less tangible yet thought-provoking. Teilhard de Chardin wrote years ago about humankind becoming conscious of itself, a process which would produce his neo-logistic "nousphere," the sphere of self reflective planetary mind. The internet, despite all the muck and trivia that it carries, is one of the early manifestations of that human planetary mind groping for self consciousness. We may not know what to make of this so early on, but we do sense that there is a missionary challenge being laid down.9

7. As missionaries we need a renewed sense of the symbolic dimensions of our lives. We handle symbols every time we celebrate liturgy, but we have reduced them at times to the merely literal and dogmatic. We miss their suggestive potentialities found in their ability to convey ever wider and ever deeper realities. Take for example, the bread we put upon the altar. Have we forgotten that the bread is for the life of the world, not just for the life of the community gathered around the altar? The bread is for those 60,000 who die each day of hunger and disease. The bread has local significance as well, not just the significance assigned to it by our western theological manuals. The symbolic in our lives is there to "draw together" the various strands and layers of our existence which usually do not find integration or unity. The symbolic is there to help us get in touch with the spiritual, with the Godself in each of us. They remind us of our weak humanity, but also that we are destined for transformation and transfiguration. We need not insist on our meaning for the symbols we use, but rather invite others to find their meanings for those same symbols. I am speaking of the inculturation of the faith, a long process which only the missionary, open to the mysterious and symbolic of the people, will be able to facilitate.

Long Term Missionary Tasks

I do think there are missionary tasks which will be transcendent of our short term vision and action. There are at least three very exciting challenges which deserve the dedication of our imagination, creativity and thrust.

The first is the question of religious pluralism which is coming out of our experience of dialogue with other faiths. The document from Vatican II, Ad Gentes, recognizes the salvific value of other religions. That means that the question of Christian superiority, and Christ's uniqueness are questions to be newly explored.

To take one example, for the last 2000 years or so Buddhism and Christianity have existed on the same planet without any form of interaction. Both were sovereign in the hearts of their adherents and formed independent and unique religious traditions.

When Buddhism first come to the West and when western missionaries went out to Buddhist peoples they condemned Buddhism as demonic and Buddha himself as evil. Now many thousands of seekers of the transcendent have gone to learn the methods of Buddhist meditation. Indeed many Christians have gone to Buddhist worship services because they find there an ethic of peace and non-violence respectful of all of life, open to everyone in a non-proselytist, non-dogmatic way, and seeking harmony in contrast to warlike, crusading Christianity.

Indeed Buddhism is a religion which most easily takes root in other cultures because it does not insist on the assimilation of grand doctrinal systems, but rather invites to a non-intrusive, non-violent relationship with all of creation. Christian mission could learn a lot about the inculturation of the faith from Buddhism.

In Asia, Aloysius Pieris speaks of the encounter of Christian faith with Asia's poor and with the poor’s wisdom traditions. From that encounter has emerged the experience of base human communities integrated by men and women of good will, whether Christian or of other faiths. The experience is speaking of a God of history, of a God of human longing and seeking, of a God hidden in the depths of the human soul, a God who gives life, who loves and shows to every seeker of the truth the way to that truth. This experience is pointing in the direction of religious pluralism, to an array of different religious traditions which seek, point to and converge on the same God.

The Asian bishops are very aware of that great challenge as we can see from the recent synod for the church in Asia. It is clear that the bishops know who the subject of mission is and what is the content. The big question is the "how" of mission. It is evident that bishops are listening and gradually attuning themselves to the Spirit as she blows through Asia.

The Vatican Curia has difficulties listening. In the post-Synodal document, Ecclesia in Asia (EA), the Pope quotes himself 68 times, and makes not even one reference to any intervention by any Asian bishop.11

For Cardinal Darmaatmadja, President Delegate of the Synod for Asia, a "new evangelization" will mean that the churches in Asia will take on "the face of Asia" so that it is "specifically characterizing Asia" and "at the same time becomes the more meaningful for Asian society, particularly for the poor and underprivileged."

The Cardinal looks on other religions as "partners in dialogue" who can "enrich us in return in the way we live our Christian lives." To do that the church must adapt itself, bend over, change and be open to learning.

Another great millennium challenge will be the evangelization of China. China wants to play a preponderant role in the emergence of Asia as an economic power. It looks set to be a major player in the World Trade Organization. It will be the USA's great rival in that country's project of globalization, a process described by Henry Kissinger as "just another word for American domination." Thousands of Christian communities gather silently and discreetly. Their experience will ask questions of our models of church and mission, especially in the area of Christian presence.

Perhaps the greatest gift cross-cultural mission can give is to seek to facilitate the liberation and emergence of women, especially poor women, as agents of their own liberation and evangelization. Already we are aware of how women are assuming ministerial roles in the church. Today more than 50% of Catholic Sunday liturgies in Brazil are presided over by women. And women in the 2/3 world are assuming weightier roles in local politics.

Women's voices are the "soft voices" scarcely heard in the clamor of the poor for justice and liberation. The history of their freedom and struggle is only now being recuperated.

One of those "soft voices" now being heard is that of Sojourner Truth. She was born in Ulster County, New York State. She was freed by her Quaker owner and became a conspicuous campaigner for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights. She was a Christian and knew how to read the foundational story from her experience of life.

She had the opportunity of addressing a mostly white suffrage gathering in Akron, Ohio in 1852. She said in part: "That little man in black there say a woman can't have as much rights as a man cause Christ wasn't a woman.
Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with him! If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down, all alone together women ought to be able to turn it rightside up again."

Sojourner Truth, does not question the story of original sin, but rather the storyteller and theologians. She does not question the myth of the eternal feminine. Rather she questions the myth-makers.

Her story, one of slavery, struggle and poverty, is different. Her experience of being woman, poor and black, is different. And so she reads the foundation story in the light of her experience and becomes herself the teller of a new story and singer of a different song. As Jean Vanier puts it: "Each person is a sacred history."

A Peruvian woman of Villa El Salvador, Peru by the name of Maria Elena Moyano was another "soft voice" that roared like a lioness in defense of the rights and autonomy of her woman's organization. So formidable was she that the Shining Path terrorists not only assassinated her, but returned to dynamite her corpse!

Sojourner Truth, Maria Elena, Aung San Suu Kyi and so many others are part of a "chorus of whispers" not yet heard as a global movement. Theirs is a dangerous memory, a subversive hope and a revolutionary theology. That is why they are rarely welcome in the spheres of responsibility and decision of our churches.

Men, too, have to learn to reread their institutional history. One painting of the scene in the upper room of a lord of history washing the feet of his friends and that of missionaries was repainted to depict an imperial court, an emperor with priestly assistance, with divine right and sanction, sending out men under the sign of the cross, a cross which in the dreams of the indigenous of Latin America, became a sword to transfix their souls.

Both women and men can learn to reread and reinterpret the story of Mary, the woman in whom mission began.

Mary received the Word sent by God. Her "yes" gave flesh to that Word sent for us and all the nations. She is the first priest because she mediates God's Word to us and transforms the Word into her flesh for the life of the world. Her "yes" sends her to Elizabeth whose words celebrate the virginity of Mary--not a physical state--but a symbol of power. Mary sings her Magnificat and celebrates her virginity, a sign of liberation by which God in her wills to overthrow the plans and thrones of the arrogant, to send the rich away empty and to exalt the poor. Mary, missionary sent to the nations, priest of a new humanity and virgin fecund of life in abundance announces God's revolution with the "soft voice" of a woman of the poor.

The mission continues through the Magi, pagan stargazers from the East. They go to Jerusalem to announce the Good News of the birth of a star-crossed Savior. The East in the persons of the Magi finds its God in the humility of a fragile baby and pays homage.

Mary contemplated all her lived experience and conveyed it to Jesus as he grew in wisdom and age. At Cana, in the midst of nuptial joy and celebration she launches his mission to all of Israel and then to the world.

The icon of Mary reminds us that mission began in the kitchen where Mary first fed Jesus, nourished his growth and nurtured his future vocation. Mission happens wherever we relate to others in a loving, creative, growthful, just and holy way. We have been reflecting on cross-cultural mission, but we cannot forget that the beginnings of mission are lived there in the midst of a nurturing and growthful relationship.

Mission today will facilitate, awaken and articulate the "soft voices" of women to play their role in church and world for the liberation of all humankind as a sign of God's reign of peace and justice.

A Missionary Paradigm for the World of Today

The missionary goes out with empty hands to cross boundaries of culture, religion, race, gender, class and nationality (at home or abroad) to enter a dialogue of life, i.e. presence, solidarity, friendship, community etc. and dialogue of faith, i.e. to share the experience of God and the transcendent present mysteriously in everyday life, in the living out of values and ideals, in building together the human and in nurturing the life of the earth etc. The missionary does this in a perspective of Jesus' announcing the coming reign of God, and experience of God's holiness (totality) in a love which does justice (right relationship), a justice which brings peace (blessing and fullness). That peace is a blessing and gift to all of creation.

Mission embraces the totality (holiness, wholeness) of God's creation: the universe, our planet, our human life in all its depths and dimensions. Mission responds to the need of humanity to recover God's gift of wholeness lost when humankind forgot its vocation to nurture the creation and began instead to devour it. And in devouring it devours also human victims, the poor of the earth.

The mission of God will go on whether we join in it or not. The Missio Deiexpresses God's embracive love of all creation in the life of the Trinity. Ours is a deceptively simple task: to find ways of reminding others that God is near and that God has promised fullness of life to all without exception. We do all this in memory of what he did for us in Jesus the Christ. We need not worry about the future because the future is God's. In the words of Oscar Romero, "We are prophets of a future not our own."


1. New publications are still appearing. For example, Mission- An Invitation to God's Future by Timothy Yates (ed) from Cliff College Publishing 2000. And, "New Testament and Mission", by Johannes Nissen from Peter Lang (Switzerland) 1999. I find this latter excellent.

2. Psalm 105 sums up the three "words" beautifully: "Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name make known his works among the nations." (v. 1)

3. This story can be found in the writings of Washington Irving.

4. Since the inception of Enlightenment culture the church has been at odds with its most conspicuous elements. The Copernican revolution unseated her from the chair of scientific knowledge. Enlightenment philosophy disdained her clerical obscurantism, and the French Revolution ostracized her from society. The process of distancing continued in the face of the rise of modern democracy, revolutionary Marxism, agnostic Darwinism, irreligious Freudianism, atheistic existentialism etc. Since before Pope Pius IX, declared the church infallible at the age of 78, it had lived in a reactionary and hermetic mode, shunning dialogue and interaction with all of secular culture.

5. In her book, "Metaphorical Theology," Sally McFague talks about postmodern assumptions. They are: "a greater appreciation of nature, a recognition of the importance of language to human existence, a chastened admiration for technology, an acceptance of the challenge that other religions present to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, an apocalyptic sensibility, a sense of the displacement of the white, Western male and the rise of those dispossessed due to gender, race, or class, perhaps most significantly, a growing awareness of the radical interdependence of life at all levels and in every imaginable way."

A very useful tool for understanding postmodernism is the book, A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanley J. Grenz, from Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

6. See, "Unopened Ground, " by Enda McDonagh in The Furrow February 2000.

7. One of the philosophers of our postmodern condition Friedrich Nietzsche (d.1900), once wrote, "I could not believe in a God who did not know how to dance."

8. This list was compiled by the Dublin Diocesan Women's Forum. See The Furrow, February 2000. I have repraduced most of it.

9. See the book, "The Internet: A Philosophical Inquiry" by Gordon Graham, from Routledge Publication.

10. Bede Griffiths threw down the gauntlet years ago when he wrote that modern Catholicisrn is a "... kind of fossilization of what had once been a great tradition."

11. See, "Of Fork and Spoon or Fingers and Chopsticks," by Edmund

Chia FSC, Sedos, 20 July 2000.

12. See, "Jesus, Miriam's Child, Sophia's Prophet" by Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza.


Chia, Edmund

2000 "Of Fork and Spoon or Fingers and Chopsticks" Sedos. July.

Dublin Diocesan Women's Forum

2000 The Furrow. February

McDonagh, Enda

2000 Unopened Ground" in The Furrow. February.

Nissen, Johanne

1999 New Testament and Mission: Historical and Hermeneutical Perspectives. Peter Lang. AG, Jupiterstrasse 15, Postfach 277, CH-3000 Bern 15, Switzerland.

Yates, Timothy (ed.)

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