What we are waiting for is what he promised: the new heaven and the new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home. So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace. III Peter 3:13-14
According to the varying circumstances of time and place, our work of evangelization in word and action should strive for this, that all, through a process of conversion and celebration of the sacraments, should be faithful to ‘the kingdom, that is to say, the new world, the new order, the new manner of being, of living, of living in community, which the gospel inaugurates.’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 23) Constitutions, 11
The construction of a new world, based on justice and holiness, is the goal toward which the evangelization of Jesus tends: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice and everything else will be given to you.” In the same way missionaries must strive, by their work and word, to establish the Kingdom of God within themselves and within others. In this way they fulfill the work that has been entrusted to them.
1. Let Us Seek the Kingdom of God above All Things
Missionaries are set apart because of their apostolic spirit and evangelical activity. They must be careful not to fall into pure activism, a temptation to which very active people often fall prey. Only attention to the demands of the Kingdom of God will help them avoid this danger. It is possible that someone could object, as in the time of Saint Vincent:
There are so many things to do, so many appointments in the house, so many commitments in the towns and in the country. Work everywhere. Must we abandon everything and think only of God? No, but we must sanctify these occupations by seeking God’s presence in them, by doing them with a view of finding him present in our midst… Our Lord desires us to seek his glory, his kingdom, and his justice above all else. In light of this goal we should set as our principal task the cultivation of the interior life: the virtues of faith, hope, love, and exercise of religion, prayer, abasement, humiliations, pains and labors. Acting in this way will please God, our sovereign Lord, and enable us to present to him a continual offering of service. In all of this, the missionary will proclaim God’s goodness to the world, procure grace for the church and virtue for the Congregation1.
2. God Watches over the Just
The establishment of the Kingdom of God demands a constant self-surrender on the part of the evangelizer. We must never be content with doing the minimum but rather must strive continually to help all people recognize their dignity as children of God. Such is the recommendation of Saint Vincent:
God reigns in a special manner over the just who honor and serve him, over good people who give themselves to God, whose aspirations are only for God, over the elect who glorify him eternally. God watches over such persons because they live the virtues and graces they have received from God. God is virtuous and all human virtue comes from God2.
3. Internal Conversion Is the Goal of Evangelization
The words of Saint Vincent concerning the establishment of the Kingdom of God are reaffirmed by Paul VI when he states:
There is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is, therefore, precisely this interior change, and, if it had to be expressed in one sentence, the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs. All this could be expressed in the following words: what matters is to evangelize the human person’s culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes, always taking the person as one’s starting point and always coming to the relationships of people among themselves and with God3.
- In the midst of my activity, do I continue to develop an interior life?
- Do I seek to build a new world of men and women imbued with the Spirit, capable of transforming the society in which they live?
God our Father, you have placed all the power of nature under the control of human persons and their work. May we bring the Spirit of Christ to all our efforts and work with our brothers and sisters at our common tasks, establishing true love and guiding your creation to perfect fulfillment. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen4.