But he said to them, ‘To other towns I must announce the Good News of the Reign of God, because that is why I was sent.’ And he continued to preach in the synagogues of Judea.
Furthermore, the members, individually and collectively, can rightly make use of the words of Jesus: ‘I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God, for which I have been sent’ (Luke 4:43).
This paragraph of our Constitutions, the object of this reflection, brings to a culmination the apostolic vocation of the Congregation, with the explicit desire that all members of the Congregation proclaim the Good News and announce the Kingdom of God everywhere. According to the measure that each confrere makes the effort to preach the Gospel, the Congregation can say that it is faithful to the motto: “The Lord has sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor.”
1. As Instruments of the Lord, We Have Dedicated Ourselves to the Task of Evangelization
In the following text, St. Vincent pointed out, in the first place, the excellence of the missionary vocation, and in the second place, the motives which induce missionaries to continue the work of Jesus Christ:
To know God, to announce Jesus Christ to the poor, to say to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, and that the Kingdom is for the poor—how great a Mission! But it surpasses our understanding when we realize that we have been called to associate ourselves with and share in the works of the Son of God… Yes, to evangelize the poor is such an exalted function because it is the very work that the Son of God carried out. And we dedicate ourselves to this activity as instruments of the Son of God. Another motive that we have for dedicating ourselves to this purpose is need. You already know well how great this need is; you know the ignorance of the poor people, an almost incredible ignorance. Now God sees this necessity and the tragedies that have occurred through the negligence of pastors and the rise of heresies, events which have caused great losses to the Church. God has willed to remedy the situation by sending missionaries to the poor and thus bringing them to salvation1.
2. Christ as Evangelizer, Announces His Kingdom above All Things
It is the responsibility of the missionaries to know how to understand, as completely as possible, the meaning and the content of evangelization in the style which Jesus conceived and practiced in his saving work. For this purpose it is important to meditate on and study the style of Jesus Christ, the evangelizer.
As an evangelizer, Christ first of all proclaims a Kingdom—the Kingdom of God. This is so important that, by comparison, everything else becomes ‘the rest’, something ‘given in addition.’ Only the Kingdom, therefore, is absolute, and everything else is relative. The Lord delights in describing the happiness of belonging to this Kingdom (a paradoxical happiness which is made up of things that the world rejects), the demands of the Kingdom and its constitutive elements, the heralds of the Kingdom, its mysteries, its children, the vigilance and fidelity demanded of whoever awaits its definitive coming2.
3. The Word of God Reveals His Secret, His Plan and His Promise
After describing for us the content of the proclamation of Jesus, the freedom his salvation gives, and having explained the great sacrifices that this announcement of Good News involves, the document just cited goes on to explain the principal means which the Lord used in saving all people:
Christ accomplished this proclamation of the Kingdom of God through the untiring preaching of a word which, it will be said, has no equal elsewhere: ‘Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. ‘There has never been anybody who has spoken like him’. His words reveal the secret of God, his plan and his promise, and thereby change our hearts and our destiny. But Christ also carries out this proclamation by innumerable signs, which amaze the crowds and at the same time draw them to him so they could see him, listen to him and allow themselves to be transformed by him: the sick are cured, water is changed into wine, bread is multiplied, the dead come back to life. And among all these signs there is the one to which he attaches greatest importance: the humble and the poor are evangelized, become his disciples and gather together ‘in his name’ in the great community of those who believe in him. For the Jesus who declared, ‘I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God’ (Luke 4:43) is the same Jesus of whom John the Evangelist said that he had come and was to die ‘to gather together in unity the scattered children of God’ (John 11:52). Thus he accomplished his revelation, completing and confirming it by the entire revelation that he makes of himself: by words and deeds, by signs and miracles, and more especially by his death, by his Resurrection and by the sending of the Spirit of Truth3.
- Do I preach the doctrine and example of Jesus, or do I prefer to expound novel ideas, products of the most recent hour?
- What signs accompany my words? Does my life contradict what I preach?
Oh Savior! You have raised up a Company for this purpose—you have sent it to the poor and you wish that they … know you as the one true God, and Jesus Christ as the one sent to the world, so that, by this means, all people might come to eternal life. Thus we must prefer this work to all other works and duties on earth, and in the end, we can consider ourselves the most happy people on earth. My God, who would ever be able to understand this? And so we pray in your name, Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.