Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eastern and Western Ways of Evangelization in Korea

Today is Mission Sunday in Korea and a time to reflect on the last words of Jesus to the Church. We will be hearing many different talks during the Masses on Sunday but let us look at the mind of the Eastern Orthodox Archbishop in Korea. His words were the head piece of the Catholic Times this week.

The Orthodox Church with its Russian presence is the closest to Korea but it was the Western Catholic Church that came to Korea. The Easter Orthodox have never been strong in the kind of evangelization that the Western Catholic Church is known for and listening to the words of the archbishop one easily sees why. They were in walking distance to China but it was the Western Church's books on Catholicism that the Koreans brought back.

The archbishop in his words to the interviewer defined evangelization as a life of humility, a life of witness and of light. In asking the missioner and cleric what is the meaning of evangelization he answered, "Giving a good example, we can't force faith on anyone. Jesus said to his disciples follow me only if you want,that is all."

The Orthodox have been in Korea for over a hundred years and have 14 parishes with 3,000 Christians. Their way of looking at evangelization is certainly not the same as the our Western approach. However there is some very attractive elements in this passive attitude. One of the sermons for this Sunday a priest mentioned the martyr Hwang Il Kwang's words: "I was born in the lowest segment of society and up to now have never received the respect given a human being. In becoming a Catholic it was not any teaching or human wisdom but the Catholics' way of life that taught me the truth of Catholicism. For me there are two heavens. One of these I have yet to reach... the other is this present life. The yangbans (higher class of society) treated me, who was considered no better than an animal, as a brother, a member of their family, when we recited the rosary to God our Father and the Blessed Mother, we did it together and we suffered together. If I die now I have no regrets"

There probably should be a lot more of the eastern approach to Evangelization in our western methods. Jesus certainly wanted us to speak and to go out to others when the occasion warrants but it would be affecting change in a deeper way if evangelization began with ourselves and was the motivating focus of our communities.

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