851 Missionary motivation. It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, "for the love of Christ urges us on."343 Indeed, God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth";344 that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.
(Consider this: We would not trust our vehicle to a mechanic who was content with yesterday’s technology and research about engines, brakes and other important components. We would not trust our healthcare to a physician who was content with yesterday’s medical knowledge. So ought we be content to leave our Christian manual (the Bible) on the shelf and live off memories of stories we heard as children, or the few texts we hear at Mass each week? What plans will you make to stay current in your understanding of your faith?)
Pope: Christians also likely to relegate religion to "secondary habit "
Taking a cue from today's Gospel (XXII Sunday year B, Mk 7 1-8.14-15.21-23), in which Jesus criticizes the Scribes and Pharisees in their formalism in following the law, the pope said: "The words of Jesus in today's Gospel against the Scribes and Pharisees should make us stop and think too. Jesus makes the words of the prophet Isaiah his own: "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts"(Mk 7.6 to 7, cf. Is 29:13). (Pope Benedict is suggesting Catholics today might hear the Lord say the same thing to them. What can we do avoid that indictment?)
The Pope continued:
God's Law therefore is a positive thing because "it is his Word that guides man on the path of life, it frees him from the condition of his slavery of selfishness and introduces him to the" land "of true freedom and life. . . .. In the Old Testament, he who in the name of God transmits God's Law to the people is Moses. He, after the long journey through the desert, on the threshold of the Promised Land, proclaims: " Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you"(Deut. 4:1)."
"Here - he continued - is the problem: when the people settle in the land, and are the depositaries of the Law, they are tempted to entrust their safety and joy to something that is no longer the Word of the Lord: to material goods, power, other 'gods' that are actually empty, that are idols. (Is there application here for us? If so, what is the remedy?) Certainly, the Law of God remains, but it is no longer the most important thing, the rule of life, it becomes a facade, a cover, and life takes another direction, other roads, other rules, often the selfish interests of the individual and groups. So religion loses its true meaning, which is to live in listening to God, to do his will, and is reduced to secondary habit, to satisfy the rather human need to feel we have done right before God. This is a serious risk in every religion, which Jesus encountered in his time, but that may occur, unfortunately, even in Christianity. "
And so again, what steps will you take to avoid that risk? What role does the word of God – the Scriptures – have in those steps to avoid that risk?
This concludes chapter 13. We will move into chapter 14 next time.