Toward a Church that Rejoices in Sharing the Gospel A call from Japan’s bishops as we approach the October 201 […]
A call from Japan’s bishops as we approach the October 2019
Extraordinary Missionary Month
To our brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Catholic Church marks the next-to-last Sunday of October each year as World Mission Day. Pope Francis has declared that October this year will be an “Extraordinary Missionary Month.”(1) This special month is related to the centenary of the 1919 apostolic letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV that emphasized proclamation to the nations following the tragedy of World War I. Pope Francis repeats Benedict’s teaching that “the proclamation and the love of the Lord Jesus, spread by holiness of one’s life and good works, are the sole purpose of missionary activity.”(2) Therefore, the pope has called for the Churches of the whole world to move toward “a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy.”(3)
In response to the call of the pope and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples,(4) the Church in Japan would like to begin a creative effort in line with the examples presented below.
1. The Soul of the Church called to proclaim the Gospel
Recalling the events of Pentecost in his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us that the Holy Spirit is “the soul of the Church called to proclaim the Gospel”(5) and urges that we pray daily that we might become “evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit.”(6)
We have prepared a “Prayer to Share the Gospel with Joy” (see below). We ask our brothers and sisters in contemplative communities as well as everyone in our dioceses to join in prayer in support of evangelization.
2. Meeting Jesus and going forth together
The primary reason for evangelization is the love we receive from Jesus.(7) Let us cherish the sacraments, especially the grace of a personal encounter with Jesus in the Mass, in order to receive the love of Jesus and to live in the joy of salvation. Reading the Bible, Scripture sharing, retreats, Eucharistic devotions and visits to the Eucharist are also helpful tools.
In addition, in order to spread the joy of our personal encounter with Jesus as love for God and our neighbors in our daily life,(8) we will go out and serve the evangelization of society.(9) In Japanese culture and society today there are already evangelical sprouts, but it is also a reality that many people are put in a weak position, oppressed, and discriminated against. Let us nurture those sprouts with the power of Christ and be bearers of the Gospel to transform Japan into a society and culture that values all people.(10)
3. Following in the footsteps of the martyrs and saints
From the planting of the Gospel by St. Francis Xavier to the present day, the history of the Church in Japan has included the 26 Japanese Martyrs, St. Thomas Nishi and 15 other martyrs, the 205 Blessed Martyrs of Japan, Blessed Peter Kibe and 187 other martyrs, and Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon among numerous models of “the foundations of the faith.”
There are also those who, inheriting the faith of these martyrs, gave their lives for religious freedom at the beginning of the Meiji period (1867) in the Urakami Yoban Kuzure persecution, when they were exiled to 22 places in western Japan. A movement has begun for the beatification of 37 among them who witnessed to their faith in Tsuwano.
Also, in the difficult times before, during and after World War II, the way St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe gave his all for mission, and the examples of Venerable Vincent Cimatti and Venerable Reiko Kitahara have all inspired us. Their examples of faith are excellent testimony to the Church in Japan of the love and power of God that supports the weak.
In addition to these canonized, beatified and venerable saints and martyrs, we must learn from the unnamed men and women who supported one another in their faith and passed it on through 250 years of persecution. They should be models to encourage our missionary activities.
4. Research and formation for mission ad gentes (to the nations)
Based on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the spirit of Pope Paul VI’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975), the Church in Japan held the National Incentive Convention for Evangelization (NICE). Re-reading the recommendations of NICE I (1987) and NICE II (1993) is valuable in evaluating the state of missionary activities since then.
At the same time, while considering the background of our current culture, history, society, etc. we must work together to consider how we can reveal the meaning of Christian salvation to Japanese people from a new perspective.
In addition, we should promote priestly and religious vocations and focus on the training of lay missionaries, catechists, and leaders of church schools to deepen the awareness that every one of us is a missionary.
5. Support for Christians engaged in missionary work and disaster recovery at home and abroad
Following the example of the early Church whose believers supported each other in mission (Acts 2:43-47), let us join the Church throughout the world in supporting with our prayers and donations those Christians who cross borders and regions to proclaim the Gospel. Support for the activities of the Japan Lay Missionary Movement, as well as the prayers and donations offered every year on World Mission Day, Mission Vocation Promotion Day, Holy Childhood Day, etc. are all means to support missionary work.
In addition, the entire Church in Japan will continue its prayer and reconstruction assistance for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and other natural disasters.
Pope Francis has announced his intention to visit Japan in November 2019. We consider the pope’s visit as “the wind of God’s grace” directed toward the Church in Japan. In response to it and to the call of Christ to “Go into all the whole world and proclaim the Good News” (Mark 16:15), let us renew our determination to engage in evangelization with new enthusiasm, means and expressions.
God, the source of joy,
you sent Christ your Son
who through his suffering and resurrection
brought to the world the joyful Good News that leads to salvation.
You sustained that joy in the followers of Christ
who even in the face of adversity
announced the Gospel to the nations.
Look upon your Church as it serves the salvation of people
in the many difficulties facing our modern society.
Strengthen us with the Holy Spirit
to be able to communicate the joy of salvation in Christ
with new enthusiasm, means and expressions.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.