The Missionary Goal of the Catholic Church

By Roger Oakland

My journey to writing Another Jesus began in the late 1990s when the word Eucharist(1) caught my attention from a number of sources. Not familiar with this term, I decided to do further research. I discovered that the Catholic Church’s doctrine of the Eucharist was based on the concept of transubstantiation, a belief that the Catholic priest has the power to turn a wafer of bread into the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus. Further, I learned that this basic belief was the very foundation of the Catholic faith.

But another aspect of the Eucharist became apparent. I came across a number of testimonies by individuals who had encountered what they described as a Eucharistic experience. This life-changing event, they claimed, had been influential in their conversion to the Catholic Church.

Thus, I was very interested when I came across a press release from the Vatican regarding statements Pope John Paul II made about the significance of the Eucharist. He called for the Eucharist to be the center of the missionary vision for the Catholic Church.

In his homily, presented at the 47th International Eucharistic Congress in June 2000, John Paul II spoke of the Eucharist as the source and focus of the Catholic Church’s missionary task. He explained:

The Congress puts the Eucharist at the center of the Great Jubilee of the Incarnation and expresses all its spiritual, ecclesial and missionary depth. It is from the Eucharist, in fact, that the Church and every believer draw the indispensable strength to proclaim and bear witness before all to the Gospel of salvation. The celebration of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Lord’s Passover, is in itself a missionary event, which plants the fertile seed of new life in the world.2

Further elaborating on what he described as the missionary aspect of the Eucharist, he stated:

The Eucharist is a “missionary” sacrament not only because the grace of missions flows from it, but also because it contains in itself the principle and eternal source of salvation for all.3

This call to a missionary vision centered on the Eucharist concerned me greatly. The head of the Catholic Church was calling upon Catholics to become missions-oriented by focusing their attention on the importance of the Eucharist. The significance of this is further reflected in the following statement:

This reflection on the meaning and missionary content of the Eucharist cannot fail to mention those outstanding “missionaries” and witnesses to the faith and love of Christ who are the martyrs. The relics of the martyrs, preserved since antiquity … are a clear sign of the power flowing from Christ’s sacrifice. This spiritual energy spurs all who are nourished by the Body of the Lord to offer their lives for him and for their brothers and sisters by giving themselves without reserve and, if necessary, even by shedding their blood.4

Finally, in an effort to encourage Catholics to promote Eucharistic evangelization, the pope challenged his followers by stating:

May the International Eucharistic Congress, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Christ offered in sacrifice for us, help to make believers more conscious of the missionary responsibility that stems from their participation in the Eucharist. The “Body given” and the “Blood poured out” are the highest criterion they must always use in giving themselves for the world’s salvation.5

After reading these statements by the pope, it became very clear to me that the Catholic evangelization program would have serious spiritual ramifications. . . .

During the late 1990s, while evangelical Protestants and Catholics were making progress joining hands and disregarding differences (Chuck Colson’s “Evangelicals & Catholics Together”16), I discovered strong evidence of an underlying Catholic agenda to entice all those who were not Catholic to become Catholic.
The pope’s declaration at the Eucharistic Congress in June of 2000 and the Knights of Columbus booklet promoting the Eucharist as the heart of what Catholics mean by evangelization, reminded me of a statement made by Catholic priest Tom Forest in 1990. I had come across this quote while doing research for my book, New Wine and the Babylonian Vine. Forest speaking to an exclusively Catholic group, explained:

Our job is to make people as richly and as fully Christian as we can make them by bringing them into the Catholic Church. So evangelization is never fully successful, it’s only partial, until the convert is made a member of Christ’s body by being led into the [Catholic] church.

No, you don’t just invite someone to become a Christian. You invite them to become Catholics … Why would this be so important? First of all, there are seven sacraments, and the Catholic Church has all seven. On our altars we have the body of Christ; we drink the blood of Christ. Jesus is alive on our altars … We become one with Christ in the Eucharist…

As Catholics we have Mary, and that Mom of ours, Queen of Paradise, is praying for us till she sees us in glory. As Catholics we have the papacy, a history of popes from Peter to John Paul II … we have the rock upon which Christ did build His Church. Now as Catholics—now I love this one—we have purgatory. Thank God! I’m one of those people who would never get to the Beatific Vision without it. It’s the only way to go.…

So as Catholics … our job is to use the remaining decade evangelizing everyone we can in the Catholic Church, into the body of Christ and into the third millennium of Catholic history. 6

A clear picture was being painted—a missionary vision focusing on the Eucharist was a topic of extreme significance. (from chapter 2 of Another Jesus)

Notes:

1. The Eucharist is known by several names including the Blessed Sacrament or Communion Host.
2. L’Osservatore Romano, “Holy Father’s Homily for Corpus Christi: The Living Father Comes Down from Heaven—Eucharist Spurs Christians to mission” (June 28, 2000), emphasis in the original.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. “Roman Catholic Doubletalk at Indianapolis ‘90,” Foundation, July-August 1990, excerpts from talk by Fr. Tom Forest to the Roman Catholic Saturday morning training session.

 

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