After learning that the mission of the Church is unclear to some Catholics, Archbishop John C. Niendstedt has emphasized that the Christian mission is to “continue the works of Jesus Christ” and to make his name “known and loved.”
The Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul’s comments were published in The Catholic Spirit as part of a reflection on planning sessions for parishes and Catholic schools.
The sessions collected comments from Catholics. According to the archbishop, Catholics hoped their faith would grow stronger in the future. They had “an overall sense of hopefulness.”
Archbishop Nienstedt thought the most interesting statement suggested that the archdiocese should clarify the mission of the Church.
“I found this intriguing because I always assumed that the mission of the Church was clear to all her members,” he wrote.
He quoted from “The Church,” a work of theologian Fr. Hans Kung authored before his more controversial writings:
“…without the raising of Jesus from the dead the community of believers, the Church, is meaningless. Only the certainty that the Crucified Christ lives on as the Risen Christ, glorified by God, gives us the solution to the riddle of Jesus as a person and makes the Church possible and real.”
The first Christian disciples’ affirmation of this faith gave birth to a new community which celebrated the “breaking of the bread” with “glad hearts,” Fr. Kung wrote, quoting Acts 2.
The theologian said this new group was an “eschatological community of salvation.” He used the theological word for “last things” such as heaven, hell, the general judgment of mankind by God, and the resurrection of the body.
Archbishop Nienstedt explained that the source of the Church’s mission is the conviction that Christ is risen and fully alive and present to the community of believing Christians.
He noted Jesus Christ’s words at the start of the Gospel of Mark: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The prelate then cited Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
He pointed to Christ’s words in John 20: “As the Father has sent me so I send you… Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Noting the root of the word “mission” means being “sent,” Archbishop Nienstedt said the Church is “sent into the world to continue the works of Jesus Christ.” He listed works such as preaching, teaching, healing, and acts of charity and justice.
Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must “make the name of Jesus known and loved,” the archbishop added, using a phrase of Archbishop emeritus Harry Flynn. The celebration of Christ “in word and sacrament” is basic to this mission.
All the programs and activities of a parish can build up the Church’s mission and should be prioritized for that purpose, the archbishop wrote.