MISSION – Encyclopedic Dictionary of Bible and Theology

God, source of the mission

Although the words “mission” and “evangelization” are used interchangeably, the concepts they contain have different nuances. The “mission” is the (divine or ecclesial) act of sending (“salah”, “apostellein”). In the New Testament, the terms “send” and “evangelize” are used as verbs (cf. Lk 4:18). The term “mission” (as a substantive) is used with Saint Ignatius (16th century) and from the foundation of the Congregation of “Propaganda Fide” (17th century). In the 19th century it is used as a term of theological reflection.

From the biblical contents, the divine action of sending (“mission”) has various nuances, its source is Trinitarian (of the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit), it is the mission that Jesus carries out and communicates to the Church, starting from the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption (paschal mystery), for the full salvation of all humanity.

The mission of Jesus, the Son of God

Jesus is the one “sent” and “consecrated” by the Father under the action of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 4,18; Jn 10,36). This mission is one of totality or “consecration”, since it qualifies his life “To whom God has sent” (Jn 6,29). Jesus calls us to believe in this mission of universal salvation, which is the fruit of the love of God the Father (cf. Jn 3:16). The same mission received by Jesus is the one that passes to the Church from him “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20,21; cf 17,18).

The mission can still be analyzed in an original-integral perspective, framing the Christian mission there. God manifests himself in all creation, directs history towards definitive salvation, manifests his universal salvific will, each human being has a concrete mission to fulfill, God
He chooses some “envoys” so that they become aware of this reality and transmit it to others, he sends his Son in the fullness of time for the new plans of salvation.

The mission is an integral salvific reality, which implies the acceptance and realization by the envoy, and which also calls for an objective study through appropriate concepts to reflect on the faith. Then it is discovered that the mission has various “moments”: the original moment of sending, the realization (then it would be evangelization itself), theological reflection, pastoral programming, spiritual experience, etc. It is always the task of announcing the love of God that is transparent in creation, in history and, in a special way, in the redemption carried out by Jesus.

Doctrinal contents of the mission

If you want to study the concept of mission, starting from its salvific reality in Christ, it will be necessary to take into account its doctrinal contents, which can be specified in these aspects: who sends, what is the mission (nature), what is its objective and how to carry it out (pastoral action methodology), who are the ones sent and what availability or “spirit” do they need (experience, spirituality).

More than a concept, mission is a salvific reality revealed in Christ. For this reason, it must be framed in the evangelical-salvific perspectives or dimensions in the light of the Trinitarian mystery of God Love (Trinitarian dimension), in the Paschal mystery of Christ (Christological dimension), dynamized by the Holy Spirit (pneumatological dimension), which gives origin and meaning to the mystery of the Church (ecclesial dimension), which deciphers the mystery of man-world-history (anthropological, sociological, historical dimension), which calls for inner attitudes of the apostle (spiritual dimension).

References Evangelizing action, apostle, apostolate, evangelization, mission “ad gentes”, missionary, pastoral.

AG document reading; IN; RMi; CEC 849-856.

Bibliography AA.VV., La missione nel mondo antico e nella Bibbia (Bologna, Dehoniane, 1990); AA.VV., Mission for the third millennium, basic course on Missiology (Bogotá and Rome, PUM, 1992); A. BELLAGAMBA, Mission and ministry in the global Church (New York: Orbis Books, 1992); DJ BOSCH, Transforming Mission. Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (New York 1993); J. CAPMANY, Mission in communion (Madrid, PPC, 1984); LA CASTRO, Taste for the mission, Manual of Missiology (Bogotá, CELAM, 1994); MG MASCIARELLI, La Chiesa è missione, trinitaria prospective (Casale Montferrato, PIEMME, 1988); K. MÜLLER, Theology of Mission (Estella, Verbo Divino, 1988); A. SANTOS HERNANDEZ, Systematic Theology of Mission (Estella, Verbo Divino, 1991); D. SENIOR, C. STRUHLMÜLLER, Bible and mission (Estella, Verbo Divino, 1985.

(ESQUERDA BIFET, Juan, Dictionary of Evangelization, BAC, Madrid, 1998)

Source: Dictionary of Evangelization

(-> sending, prophets, Matthew, apostles). The whole of the Bible assumes that man has a task to perform, responding to God and fulfilling his commandments. Thus, two types of religion are usually distinguished: mystical religions, which have no other task than to express the sacred depth of reality; and the prophetic religions, which are essentially missionary, since the prophet is a man “sent by God” to carry out a social and/or religious mission that identifies with the very being and action of God. It is in this context that the mission of Jesus is rooted, that he sends the Twelve * as witnesses of the Kingdom that is coming (cf. Mt 10,1-7 par). That is where the task of the Hellenistic* missionaries has been located, who extend the church beyond the borders of Israel and, above all, the ideal and task of Paul*, the apostle or envoy par excellence. But here we wanted to collect the testimony of Mateo, because it expresses very well the moments and tensions of the ecclesial mission.

(1) Matthew. The two missions. The church of Matthew* preserves the wounds of the struggle between the intra-Jewish messianism (cf. Mt 5:17-20) of some Judeo-Christian circles (who only feel sent to the house of Israel) and the messianism and universal mission of the end of the gospel (Mt 28,16-20), which has marked the entire subsequent vision of the Christian Church. The first mission, assumed by the Twelve* at the time of Jesus, was limited to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (cf. Mt 10:5-12). The second, which appears, without a doubt, as an authentic interpretation of Jesus’ message, endorsed by Peter (cf. Mt 16:16-20), is opened by the eleven Easter disciples to the nations, from the mountain of Galilee. These eleven are disciples and brothers of Jesus (cf. Mt 28,7.10), who meet at Easter with the women who have seen the empty tomb, they represent the Church, which begins its missionary journey from the Galilean mountain. They have or, rather, they are authority because Jesus is present in them (Jesus has not left to send them the Spirit, as in Lk 24 and Acts 1). They can and must carry out the work of Jesus, present in them, offering the people the new birth and Trinitarian teaching (of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), not circumcision and the Jewish law. They are all the believers (not the Twelve of the Israelite mission; cf. Mt 10,2), they are the new humanity, men and women, who open themselves from the Galilean mountain (message and life of Jesus) to the nations; they are a compendium of those whom Jesus has called (during his life and after Easter), offering them the task of the kingdom, making them creators of the church. What is Israelite imperfection (eleven and not Twelve) becomes universal perfection. Mk 16,1-8 knew that to open up to the nations one must leave Jerusalem and start in Galilee, but he had not expressly said so. Mt, on the other hand, says so: this is, perhaps, the saddest and most creative of his affirmations: the function of Jerusalem has ended (cf. Mt 21,43; 22,7; 23,37-39); now the new universal Christian mission opens from Galilee (not from Rome as Acts 28 supposes). Israel’s tradition had placed the encounter with God and the beginning of Israelite life on the mountain of Exodus, where God burned like fire or thundered saying his commandments (cf. Ex 3; 19-20). Well, Jesus has summoned his disciples to the mountain of revelation in Galilee, where they find him. Jesus does not have to appear: he waits there, he is waiting for them, to show them the truth and fullness of his love on earth. There he shows himself to them as universal Lord. Thus he entrusts them with his task and offers them his promise: “The Eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the Mountain that Jesus had commanded them. And seeing him they adored him, although some doubted. And Jesus, going ahead of them, spoke to them saying: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me; 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 every day, until the consummation of time” (Mt 28:16-20). According to this, the Easter experience is interpreted as an extension of the sovereignty of God, which is now expressed as the Lordship of Christ, Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus possesses (has received, has been given) all power and thus he manifests himself to his disciples, making them participants in his task.

(2) “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). This is the content of the Christian mission. The Gospel is not imposed by force. He does not transform things with violence, but expresses and realizes his lordship through the disciples, whom Jesus entrusts with his task. On the one hand, Jesus commands his disciples to go to all the towns, to transmit his gospel to them: Easter is, therefore, a universal gift of God in Christ; word and gesture of love that binds the nations and people of the earth, overcoming all old particularism. In this line, the disciples have to “receive” everyone, offering them their own space of life, that is, their discipleship. Therefore, they do not have to reconstruct the Israelite number of Twelve (against Acts 1), since the Eleven of the missionary mountain no longer appear as pure Israelites, to reconstruct and judge the tribes of Israel (cf. Mt 19, 28; Lk 22,30), but as universal disciples of Jesus (Mt 28,16), who must offer discipleship (mathéteusate: 28.19) to all nations, without distinction of race, people or sex. Jerusalem has not been able to link the peoples and thus the path of the Law has ended. But, according to the interpretation of the opening keys of Peter (cf. Mt 16.19), the disciples of Jesus have to offer, from the Easter mountain, the universal salvation of the Gospel. Peter is no longer quoted: the missionary mandate (make disciples) expands, through all the disciples, to all the men and women of the earth. This experience of transcendence with respect to the Law (Jerusalem) and of universal openness is inscribed in the Jewish tradition, as Mt 25:31-46 knows, where the nations approach the Son of Man, without distinction or separation of ranks (peoples, hierarchies or estates); all men come to discover their truth (blessing or curse) in reference to those most in need: “I was hungry, did you give me…

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