Message for the Month of Mission 2017
‘Mission’ or ‘propagation of the faith’ means the proclamation of the Gospel. It implies that the joy of the Gospel flows out from our hearts towards others, so that we can share joy with our neighbors. For this reason, mission can start only when we feel ecstatic with joy on hearing the Good News. The disciples’s reaction to the resurrection of their Master Jesus provides a prototype of such a joy. For what reason were they happy? Did they feel joy because they expected that through His resurrection and continued presence He might restore their hope for the future by extending His reign over Rome and Israel? This could not have been the reason for their joy. If it was, the seed of Christianity could not have produced any fruit.
Rather they must have found the fountain of joy in other places: as Pope Francis pointed to, the outskirts and margins of society far from the places of the powerful. This is why Christianity has continued up to the present. What, on earth, did the intellectuals of ancient Rome discover among the Jewish Christians who lived in the lowest positions in society, as butchers and morticians, that made them select Christianity as the state religion just a few centuries later?
According to the historians, it was the ‘breaking of bread’ that affected the intellectuals of Rome, eventually leading to their conversions. For them it was ‘marvelous’ to see lower class workers, who lived from hand to mouth, sharing bread and offering it to people who were even poorer than themselves. On top of this, they were surprised and ‘fascinated’ by Christians who found not worldly but heavenly joy in the Gospel from the words, deeds, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God. Through the breaking and sharing of bread these Christians found communion with Him. Those who lived close to Christians were touched by their ‘heart of forgiveness’, the forgiveness which cannot be possible without help from the Spirit. The early Christians were filled with the joy of the Gospel in the Spirit of God. Unfortunately, two thousand years later such joy appears to be fading away in today’s Church as is found in the West.
The Catholic Church in Korea with its two hundred year history is not an exceptional one. Nowadays, here too, the joy of the Gospel is diminishing due to money, power and ideological conflict. Though our forefathers in the faith shed their blood as witnesses to the faith during the persecutions the joy of the Gospel is weakening in today's society. To be frank, non-evangelical things reflecting the values of capitalism in Korea have found their way into the prosperous profile of the Church in Korea. The Church behaves like a spiritual organization which has a lot of power and extraterritorial rights. The Church in Korea resembles Korean secular society. At the present time hypocrites, pseudo-prophets and materialists raise their voices, basing their words on ‘pariah capitalism’ and ‘immature democracy’, throughout the Church.
We, as Korean Catholics, living in this time, cannot escape such a reality. And this is the first and foremost reason why we should exert ourselves to restore hope in this country where Korean people suffer as a consequence of spiritual and material poverty. Since it is our duty to take care of the poor, if we fail to do so we are not worthy of being called Christians. We are true Christians when we share the pains and sufferings of our poor neighbors just as Jesus did. The more gratefully we commit ourselves to the task of loving our neighbors the more we will experience the joy of the Gospel.
During his pastoral visit to Korea in August, 2014, Pope Francis pointed out the reality of the Church in Korea. He asked us not to yield to the temptations to remove the poor from the Church, to make the Church affluent for the affluent, to make a Church of the well-to-do. Most of all, clerics and religious must be mindful of the twin temptations of money and power. Let us remember the light of the Word and the example of the Korean martyr’s spirit.
First, we must remember what the Lord taught His disciples (cf. Mt 20:24-28), laypeople are central to the Church, followed by religious, priests, and bishops all of whom are lowest and called to serve the faithful. As Paul the Apostle said (cf. 2Cor 4), death (on the Cross) is at work in clerics to give life and the joy of the Gospel to the faithful. Bishops must remain close to their priests, loving and encouraging them in their daily duty, so that priests, in turn, may share fraternal love with religious and believers.
Second, pastors and parochial vicars ought to live the Gospel faithfully not in word but in deed. When priests live in the light of the Gospel they may come to know God’s love and follow the example of Jesus' love for the Father and others. In this way, the preaching on their lips can become true living Words that have the power to change parish communities into genuine ‘small Christian communities’ living in accord with what they teach. As a result, members of these communities will not be lured by pseudoreligions such as Shincheonji, the Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (SCJ).
Third, the only way to cure our spiritual laxity due to our lack of spiritual practice is to share with the least and those most in need. By doing this we can restore the simplicity and purity of heart that we once had in our childhoods.
In conclusion, let us take time to read at least a passage of the Bible and pray about it everyday. Let us be like Jesus, let us obey the Word of God which is truth: “your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). ‘Nothing’ is needed by Christians except the joy of the Gospel. It is my desire to hear from all around me that I have chosen the better part and that they would like to join me so as to share in such a lifestyle. Amen.
Month of Mission
+ Constantine Bae Ki Hyen
Bishop of Masan
CBCK Committee for Evangelization