Hope Moves Us Forward (Part 2)

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Let’s reflect a little more on the major point of part one: Evangelization makes us participate in a work that is already being carried out in the world by the Holy Spirit. This gives us hope. Nobody is excluded from God’s plan of salvation. In Redemptoris Missio, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote,

While acknowledging that God loves all people and grants them the possibility of being saved (cf. l Tm 2:4), the Church believes that God has established Christ as the one mediator and that she herself has been established as the universal sacrament of salvation. … It is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation. Both these truths help us to understand the one mystery of salvation, so that we can come to know God’s mercy and our own responsibility. Salvation, which always remains a gift of the Holy Spirit, requires man’s cooperation, both to save himself and to save others. This is God’s will, and this is why he established the Church and made her a part of his plan of salvation.

Redemptoris Missio, 9

Let’s unpack this. Through the Holy Spirit we are instruments of salvation in the hands of God. Let us praise the Lord for this! Yet even though this is the case, salvation is not wholly dependent upon us. Salvation is always a matter of the gift of the Holy Spirit on the one hand, and of the cooperation of human beings on the other hand. But we are not the only ones whose human cooperation is requested. There is the cooperation of other members of the Body of Christ, and there is the cooperation of those non-believers whom God is calling to Himself.

The point here is not to get us “off the hook,” but to avoid falling into a “savior complex”:  We are not the Savior! Jesus Christ is! Once we have accepted this, we can move forward into the work of evangelization with trust, peace, and hope; and yes, also urgency. Christ and the Church are necessary for salvation; AND God is offering all the abundant possibility of being saved — in Christ, through the Church. If we, in our weakness and sin, fail to proclaim the gospel to someone; it will not be the sole cause that determines whether or not that person will be saved. God is not an arbitrary tyrant, but a just and loving Father.

Perhaps this is the reason why the modern Popes seem to have focused on the danger of hell for Catholics who do not evangelize, over the danger of hell for those who have not heard the gospel. Saint Paul VI most famously said,

It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame – what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel” – or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?

Pope St. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80

In this way, it is not only hope that should move us forward to evangelize, but also a chaste and holy fear. We should be moved forward by the urgency of the gospel — to be an instrument of God: to bring new life in Christ; to deliver from error, spiritual slavery, sin, and hell; to obey our Lord and Savior and find our eternal life in Him; to love others as He has loved us.

Author: Mr. Mark J Hornbacher, OP

Mark is the Vice President of Programs and Director of Theology at St. Paul Street Evangelization. He has a BA in Theology from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, and a B.Phil and MA in Theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. With Steve Dawson, he is the co-author of Ordinary Christians, Extraordinary Signs: Healing in Evangelization. He is a lay Dominican, and resides in Sterling Heights, MI with his wife Gayle, and their two sons.

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