The Christian apostolate and mission are propelled by the missionary mandate, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15; cf. Matt 28:19-20).
In both Gospels of Mark and Matthew, the command, which appears in nuanced forms, is given directly to the specific group of the eleven disciples, called apostles, who constitute the Apostolic College. These eleven apostles, whose number would later be completed to twelve, represent the whole Church, which is the entire Christian Community. It means that the mandate given to them is a mandate given to the whole Church. As the Church celebrates the feast of the Evangelist Mark today, this mandate is read afresh to remind us of the great mission that is continuing and yet to be completed.
Proclaiming the Good News in the World Today
The mission entrusted to the Church is a positive one – preaching a message that is defined as Good News. The very idea evokes optimism and hope, as we today live in a world that brandishes more bad news. The Good News, which is Jesus himself, is strictly tied to the proclamation of God’s kingdom of love, truth, justice, and peace in the world.
The central element in this proclamation is the event of Christ’s death on the cross and his resurrection, which generally symbolize sacrificial love and victory. This mission of the Church, together with the Church’s self-definition as the instrument of God’s love, unity and peace in the world gets seriously challenged in today’s times.
As the world becomes increasingly complex, with the ever-increasing adaption of modern technology and the spate of globalization and information technology, the social context of our mission is tremendously more intimidating than in the past. Many societies that used to be very Christian or even very Catholic before are today caught up in the secularization spree. Still the Church continues to hear the Divine Master insist: Go out into the world and proclaim the Good News. This is the only hope for genuine development and peace.
Implications of Going Out into the World
The mission of the Church is to go out or to go forth into the world, that is, into all strata of humanity. This means that the Church, together with all her members, all Christians, cannot remain closed up within herself. The Church must reach out more than she has always done, since the missionary mandate is “Go out!” or “Go forth!”
Pope Francis elaborates the significance of this mandate in Evangelii Gaudium: “The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24). According to the Holy Father, taking the first step means boldly taking the initiative, in imitation of the Lord who loved us first (cf. 1 John 4:19), by going out to others, seeking those who have fallen away, standing at the crossroads, and welcoming the outcasts and sinners, and showing mercy. Similarly, getting involved means entering into people’s daily lives with word and deed, bridging distances, even to debasing oneself, embracing human life and “touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others”.
With these words, Pope Francis inspires the Church and every Christian on the importance of the mission on the social sphere: to make the world a better place, to break unjust fetters, to dismantle unjust structures, to affect the triumph of justice and human equality, and to plead on behalf of the oppressed and persecuted. All these involve taking greater risks to enhance the lives of people.