Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
September 29, 2003
Blessed are the meek . . .
The closing words of Matthew's Gospel belong to Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the close of the age."
Here is the clarion call to the Church's mission of evangelization, a call which led to Jesus' tiny band of disciples growing to the 1.5 billion people who today call themselves Christians.
Heeding this call has led to a mighty outpouring of good over the centuries, the transformation of millions of people's lives from self-seeking to other-centredness. It has led to the slow transformation of whole societies from traditional forms of idolatry to at least some emphasis on the dignity of the human person.
But there has also been a dark side. Sometimes making disciples of all nations has taken the form of domination. The Crusades, the Inquisition and the conquest of the Americas all, at times, reflected a desire to spread the Gospel that did not respect the consciences of others.
Since at least the Second World War, this model of domination has been on the retreat. The collapse of the Catholic Church in Quebec is but one example of how things have changed. From a mighty force with its hand in all sectors of society, the Church almost overnight saw its power and influence shredded. The Church's collapse has had important implications for Quebec society - now the most "open" in North America to common-law relationships, abortion and other expressions of late 20th century social liberalism.
Because the Church was not as powerful in other parts of Canada, the decline in its influence has not been so dramatic here. But we are left with the vexing question of how we are to make disciples of all nations when the old model of doing so is widely out of favour.
We are entering a new era in Western history and of Church history in the West. This new era was symbolized by and gained momentum from the Second Vatican Council, but it has yet to bear its fruit in the West. We face a choice. We can dither as the Church fades into irrelevance . . . and watch all that will mean for the wider culture. Or, we can put together the pieces of a new way of living and spreading the Gospel.
This was the message of Pope John Paul's 1990 encyclical, Mission of the Redeemer. "Our own time . . . demands a resurgence of the Church's missionary activity," the pope wrote (n. 30). Further, the Holy Spirit is "the principal agent of mission."
This is a welcome insight. For it is not by coercion or by human efforts that the world will be transformed. It is by the gentle power of the Holy Spirit.
This does not mean we are to be passive. Rather, it may mean that while words are important, actions are even more important. While the Western world has rebelled against organized religion, it is also seeking to fill the emptiness at the core of secularity.
We need to be aware of what we are trying to communicate. Our God is the inconceivable, the ineffable, the transcendent. Yet, he is also God-with-us. God is in all, beneath all and beyond all. He is infinitely generous, full of love and mercy.
Anonymous individuals who are people of prayer and people of friendship and service can transform the world.
To spread the Gospel in our skeptical and cynical world, we need paradoxically to think less about making others believe and more about living lives of devotion, integrity and authenticity.
We need to find true meekness. Meekness is not a lack of virility. It is an overcoming of the disordered feelings, fears and resentments in our hearts to live lives disciplined by the heart of Jesus.
By becoming meek, our light will be made visible to the world. And we will come to know the truth that Jesus revealed: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
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