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Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (Jn. 12:47)
The Western culture which, by means of the globalised media and human mobility, is currently dominant and increasingly widespread throughout the world, even in countries of a different culture, presents no small challenge to evangelisation. It is a culture which is marked profoundly by a relativism which refuses any affirmation of an absolute and transcendent truth and thus which ruins the foundations of morality and which closes itself off to religion. In this way the passion for truth is lost, being relegated to the place of a “useless passion”. In contrast Jesus Christ is the Truth, the Universal Logos, the Reason which enlightens and explains all that exists. Relativism, then, is accompanied by an individualistic subjectvism, which places one’s own ego at the centre of everything. In the end one cannot but arrive at a nihilism according to which there is nothing and nobody in whom there is any point in investing one’s entire life, and consequently life has no real meaning. However, one must recognise that the post-modern culture which is currently dominant brings with it a truly great scientific and technological progress which fascinates the human being, especially the young. The use of this progress, unfortunately, does not always have for its principal aim the good of mankind or of individuals. It lacks an integral humanism which could give it an ultimate meaning. We could talk of many other aspects of this culture: consumerism, libertarianism, the culture of spectacle and of the body. It is impossible not to recognise that all this produces a laicism which refuses religion, does everything to weaken it, or, at least, relegates it to the sphere of the private life of the individual.
This culture produces a dechristianisation, already all too evident, in the majority of Christian lands, and in a particular way in the West. The number of priestly vocations there has dropped, as also has the number of priests, due to the lack of vocations and due to the influence of the cultural ambiance in which they live. This could all lead us to a discouraged pessimism which condemns the world of today and could lead us to retreat to a defensive position in the trenches of resistance.
Instead, Jesus Christ says, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (Jn 12: 47). We must not allow ourselves either to be discouraged, to fear our current society, or to simply condemn it. We must save it! Every human culture, even the present one, can be evangelised. There are in every culture “semina Verbi” as openings to the Gospel, and this is certainly the case even in our present culture. Without a doubt even the so called “post-Christians” can be touched and reopened, if they were to be brought to a true personal and communitarian encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ. In such an encounter every human person of good will can be reached by Him. He loves all and knocks at the door of all, because he wants to save all, without exception. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, for all. He is the one mediator between God and men.
My dear Priests, we, shepherds, are called urgently today to the mission both “ad gentes” and in the regions of the Christian lands, where many of the baptised have distanced themselves from participation in our communities or, indeed, have lost the faith entirely. We must not be afraid or remain subdued within our home. The Lord said to his disciples, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” (Mt. 8:25). "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me” (Jn. 14:1). “Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Mt. 5:15). "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15). “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:20).
We will not cast the seed of the Word of God merely from the window of our parochial house, but we will go out into the open fields of our society, beginning with the poor and arriving at all levels and institutions of society. We will go to visit families, every person, above all the baptised and those who are distanced. Our people want to feel the nearness of the Church. We will do so, going out to our contemporary society with joy and enthusiasm, certain of the presence of the Lord with us on the mission, and certain that he will knock on the door of the hearts of those to whom we will announce Him.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy