Monday, March 10, 2014

Discussing What Is Meant by Mission

The Columban Missionary Society recently met in a two-day seminar to remember their 80 years of service in Korea and to discuss plans for improving the quality of missionary work in the challenging times ahead. Many specialists, both Catholic and Protestant, came together to share their ideas on the subject. The Catholic Times devoted  two articles and an editorial on the seminar.

In today's world, it was noted, we can't ignore the influence of native cultures and religions when discussing the role of missions. We have seen in Korea the presence of many foreign workers, intermarriages and the mingling of cultures, which is today another way of being Korean. The Church in Korea is also faced with this new reality, and was one reason the Columban Missionary  Society felt the need to discuss this emerging reality and the best steps to take to maximize the efforts of missionary work  in responding to this new world. 

Most of the dioceses and religious groups of the country are sending missionaries to other countries of the world: a sign of the growth and competence  of the Korean Church and the need for continued programs for the education of our missionaries. Because of the present challenges faced by the Church, the question many tried to answer, as they pondered the general topic of discussion, Missio Dei (Mission of God), was: Is there a need for a new way of doing mission?

One participant mentioned that God was always there as the motive force to help one to do good and avoid evil. Jesus came to show us the relationship between the love of God and the love of our fellow humans. Jesus connected the two. If we want to meet God, it is necessary  to do it through our neighbors. When we alienate others  and use God in the process we are making idols  to serve ourselves. Our discipleship to Jesus will depend on our response to our neighbor, on the love and forgiveness we have for others and  we manifest in our daily life, which is our faith life. There is a disposition for God in our DNA, said one participant, that we need to  discover in our mission work.

A Protestant minister said that the missioner should not be primarily interested in increasing the numbers of their community, but be more interested in making those we are evangelizing realize they are children of God and thus brothers and sisters. The ultimate goal of the missioner, it was pointed out, is to help people meet God. And what was to be avoided was making our thinking  the absolute criterion of mission work. God, not the evangelist, is the subject of mission work. Rather than setting the boundaries of our mission work from the perspective of our different religions, it was necessary to bring the people to Jesus,which is the Missio Dei.

Another priest participant said that because we are in a world with many different religions, we need to remember that Christianity is only one of many, and we should not lose sight of that reality. Conscious of this pluralistic world will keep us grounded and prepared to face the challenges ahead. Instead of thinking that each  party  of a dialogue has all the truth, it is better to think it is somewhere between us.

This will require looking for different ways of doing mission. * Learning from one another * Having open conversations with everyone, not only with believers, but with the atheist and the non-believer * Cooperating with those who are suffering  * Going  beyond isolationist spiritual thinking* Making our dialogue take flesh and doing it all with humility.

Another participant, a professor, saw the way God was working in the many different cultures of the world. God is also the God of all these other people, he said, citing Rom. 3:29. God manifested himself sacramentally in a variety of ways in the different cultures and religions of the world. These cultures and religions can lead many to go beyond their values and come to a true understanding of the Gospels.

One of the articles ends with the words of a  priest: The place of God in the life of the believer is continuing to decrease because of the secularization that is taking place. One of the works of mission is to make God present in that reality. When this is done, he said, mission bestows meaning to evangelization.

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