It is beneficial for Catholics to periodically read Pope St. John Paul II’s 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, on the missionary mandate of the Church — especially certain parts of it. Let’s reflect upon a short part of it here.
At the end of paragraph 60, St. John Paul quotes the twelfth-century monk Isaac of Stella that charity is “the sole criterion for judging what is to be done or not done, changed or not changed. It is the principle which must direct every action, and end to which that action must be directed. When we act with a view to charity, or are inspired by charity, nothing is unseemly and everything is good.”
This is standard Catholic moral theology. Divine charity (or love) is the soul of the Christian life, and all its activities. Divine Charity comes flowing from God, whose very nature is love, and is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (see 1 John 4.8, 16; Romans 5.5). For our part, we must yield to this love, which dwells within us, by deliberately and repeatedly acting from it. In this way, we are gradually able to fulfill the entire law; summed up, as it is, in the double commandment to love God and neighbor.
As these truths are at play in the entirety of our Christian life, so are they at play in each part of that life. And that includes — obviously, and emphatically — our work of evangelization. In the same place in paragraph 60 of Redemptoris Missio, St. John Paul states that divine charity is the soul of evangelization. It is, he says, “the driving force of mission.”
In other words, it is of no use to put so much of our focus on means and methods of evangelization, if we do not already put most of our focus on the spiritual task of abiding in the love of God. We abide in the love of God by acting from His love, by fulfilling His commandments to love Him with our whole selves and our neighbor as ourselves. This is faithfulness to our duties, works of love, intimate prayer, following God’s inspirations. This is the “one thing necessary.”
May you and I yield to the lessons of the Divine Teacher as He directs us on this Way.