CEBU, Philippines, FEB. 10, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Without a love for the Lord, “all effort to proclaim the Gospel is drudgery and onerous work,” says Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu.
The importance of this fact is reflected in John Paul II’s missionary intention this month. The Pope is praying that missionaries “may have a passionate love for Christ, indispensable for proclaiming the Gospel with conviction.”
About 85,000 priests, 28,000 men religious, 45,000 women religious, and 1.65 million catechists are engaged in missionary work. In the countries of the missionary world, just over 7% of the 2.85 billion people are Catholic, according to data of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Missionaries know that “only through a passionate love for Christ is it possible to transmit the Gospel in an effective and convincing manner,” because the “Gospel itself is a call to love and a proposal of love offered by Christ himself,” Cardinal Vidal told the missionary agency Fides, when commenting on the Pope’s missionary prayer intention.
“We who are sent to announce it cannot convey its meaning unless we experience and share that love within ourselves,” the archbishop of Cebu said.
“In the heart of every missionary must burn a fire which moves him to proclaim the Lord,” he added. “It is the same love which the prophet Jeremiah speaks about” who said: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary holding it in, and I cannot.”
Cardinal Vidal, 74, continued: “The Gospel brings us to a deeper appreciation of God who loves us in the way he wants us to love him: ‘He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.'”
For the cardinal, the “challenge of every missionary is to articulate this message in a way that can be understood by the world. There is no way it can be articulated except to live it in one’s own life.”