Pastor’s Corner for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

Today is Mission Sunday, when the Church is reminded that the very reason for existence is bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. Ten years after the close of the Second Vatican Council and a year after the 1974 Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul VI issued Evangelii Nuntiandi. He stated that the Church “exists in order to evangelize, that is to say in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of his death and glorious Resurrection.”


The proclamation of the Kingdom of God and salvation for all people through Jesus Christ is at the very core of the Church’s mission. To evangelize, one bears witness to God’s Revelation in Jesus through the Holy Spirit by living a life imbued with Christian virtues, by proclaiming unceasingly that salvation is offered to all people through the Paschal Mystery of Christ, and by preaching hope in God’s love for us.


Pope Paul VI recognized that the first proclamation of the Good News is directed outwards, to those not of the Church. However, he also recognized the need for the evangelization of the baptized who no longer practice their faith. He called upon the Church to evangelize these two groups, to invite them to a life of conversion, and to add new meaning to their life through the Paschal Mystery of Christ.


In a recent General Audience, Pope Francis noted that “evangelization is more than just simple doctrinal and moral transmission but rather that it is first and foremost, the witness of the personal encounter with Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word in which salvation is fulfilled”. The witness of Christ, continued the Pope, “is at the same time the first means of evangelization and an essential condition for its efficacy, so that the proclamation of the Gospel may be fruitful”.


Bringing his catechesis to an end, Pope Francis stressed that “a Church that evangelizes herself in order to evangelize is a Church that, guided by the Holy Spirit, is required to walk a demanding path of continuous conversion and renewal” and this also entails the ability to change the ways of understanding and living its evangelizing presence in history, avoiding taking refuge in the protected zones of the logic of ‘it has always been done this way”. This Church, concluded the Pope, is one that “dialogically encounters the contemporary world, that weaves fraternal relationships, that generates spaces of encounter, implementing good practices of hospitality, welcome, recognition and integration of the other and of otherness, and that cares for the common home that is creation”.


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ