Saturday in the Octave of Easter

The end of the Gospel of Mark contains the admonition of Jesus to his disciples to go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  The Jesuits took this great command seriously and even before the order was officially ratified by Pope Paul III, Francis Xavier was on a boat for the near east.  The Jesuits were established a few decades after the Magellan expedition returned, the first time anyone had circumnavigated the globe.  And so, the Jesuits were founded at the beginning of “globalism.”

The vast expanse of the world and the adventures of so many missionaries lead us to think that unless we are penetrating unknown continents we are somehow falling short of Christ’s admonition to proclaim the gospel throughout the world. This idea is a bad temptation, and its reverse was identified by Pope Pius X who in 1905 acknowledged the important role of the Laity in advancing the Kingdom of God in those areas frequently untouched or unreachable by the clergy. Pope Pius noted the following in his encyclical “On Catholic Action:”

“The field of Catholic Action is extremely vast. In itself it does not exclude anything, in any manner, direct or indirect, which pertains to the divine mission of the Church. Accordingly, one can plainly see how necessary it is for everyone to cooperate in such an important work.  Not only for the sanctification of one’s own soul, there is also the need for the extension and increase of the Kingdom of God in individuals, families, and society.  Each person must work according to his or her energy for the good of the neighbor by the propagation of revealed truth, by the exercise of Christian virtues, and by the exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”

The call for universal participation in the sanctification of the world called for by Pope Pius X in 1905 may take a bit of the steam out of the argument held by some that the laity was not called into action until the Second Vatican Council. Today’s reading reminds us that the world is the object of evangelization but that world also includes the world that is near and familiar and equally in need of the Good News.

April 11th, 2015