DIALOGUE AND PROCLAMATION
Reflection And Orientations On Interreligious Dialogue
3. INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE AND PROCLAMATION
1. INTERRELATED YET NOT INTERCHANGEABLE
77. The Church's mission
Interreligious dialogue and proclamation, though not on the same level, are both authentic elements of the Church's evangelizing mission. Both are legitimate and necessary. They are intimately related, but not interchangeable: true interreligious dialogue on the part of the Christian supposes the desire to make Jesus Christ better known, recognized and loved; proclaiming Jesus Christ is to be carried out in the Gospel spirit of dialogue. The two activities remain distinct but, as experience shows, one and the same local Church, one and the same person, can be diversely engaged in both.
78. Awareness of the circumstances
In actual fact the way of fulfilling the Church's mission depends upon the particular circumstances of each local Church, of each Christian. It always implies a certain sensitivity to the social, cultural, religious and political aspects of the situation, as also attentiveness to the "signs of the times" through which the spirit of God is speaking, teaching and guiding. Such sensitivity and attentiveness is developed through a spirituality of dialogue. This requires a prayerful discernment and theological reflection on the significance in God's plan of the different religious traditions and the experience of those who find in them their spiritual nourishment.
79. The universality of the Church's mission
In fulfilling her mission, the Church comes into contact with people of other religious traditions. Some become disciples of Jesus Christ in his Church, as a result of a profound conversion and through a free decision of their own. Others are attracted by the person of Jesus and his message, but for various reasons do not enter the fold. Yet others seem to have but little or no interest in Jesus. Whatever the case may be, the Church's mission extends to all. Also in relation to the religions to which they belong, the Church in dialogue can be seen to have a prophetic role. In bearing witness to Gospel values, she raises questions for these religions. Similarly, the Church, insofar as she bears the mark of human limitations, may find herself challenged. So in promoting these values, in a spirit of emulation and of respect for the mystery of God, the members of the Church and the followers of other religions find themselves to be companions on the common path with humanity is called to tread. At the end of the day of prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage for peace in Assisi, Pope John Paul II said: "Let us see in it an anticipation of what God would like the developing history of humanity to be: a fraternal journey in which we accompany one another towards the transcendental goal which he sets for us"(20).
80. The way of dialogue
The Church encourages and fosters interreligious dialogue not only between herself and other religious traditions, but even among these religious traditions themselves. This is one way in which she fulfills her role as "sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument of communion with God and unity among all people" (LG 1). She is invited by the spirit to encourage all religious institutions and movements to meet, to enter into collaboration, and to purify themselves in order to promote truth and live, holiness, justice, love and peace, dimensions of that Kingdom which, at the end of time, Christ will hand over to his Father (cf. 1 Co 15:24). Thus, interreligious dialogue is truly part of the dialogue of salvation initiated by God(21).
81. Preach and confess
Proclamation, on the other hand, aims at guiding people to explicit knowledge of what God has done for all men and women in Jesus Christ, and at inviting them to become disciples of Jesus through becoming members of the Church. When, in obedience to the command of the risen Lord and the Spirit's promptings, the Church fulfills this task of proclamation, this will often need to be done in a progressive manner. A discernment is to be made concerning how God is present in each one's personal history. The followers of other religions may discover, as may Christians also, that they already share many values. This can lead to a challenge in the form of the witness of the Christian community or a personal profession of faith, in which the full identity of Jesus is humbly confessed. Then, when the time is right, Jesus' decisive question can be put: "Who do you say that I am?" The true answer to this question can come only through faith. The preaching and the confession, under the movement of grace, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God the Father, the Risen Lord and Saviour, constitutes the final stage of proclamation. One who freely professes this faith is invited to become a disciple of Jesus in his Church and to take a responsible part in her mission.
4. COMMITMENT TO THE ONE MISSION
82. Personal involvement
All Christians are called to be personally involved in these two ways of carrying out the one mission of the Church, namely proclamation and dialogue. The manner in which they do this will depend on the circumstances and also on their degree of preparation. They must nevertheless always bear in mind that dialogue, as has already been said, does not constitute the whole mission of the Church, that it cannot simply replace proclamation, but remains oriented towards proclamation in so far as the dynamic process of the Church's evangelizing mission reaches in it its climax and its fullness. As they engage in interreligious dialogue they will discover the "seeds of the Word" sown in people's hearts and in the religious traditions to which they belong. In deepening their appreciation of the mystery of Christ they will be able to discern the positive values in the human search for the unknown or incompletely known God. Throughout the various stages of dialogue, the partners will feel a great need both to impart and to receive information, to give and to receive explanations, to ask questions of each other. Christians in dialogue have the duty of responding to their partners' expectations regarding the contents of the Christian faith, of bearing witness to this faith when this is called for, of giving an account of the hope that is within them (1 P 3:15). In order to be able to do this, Christians should deepen their faith, purify their attitudes, clarify their language and render their worship more and more authentic.
83. Love and sharing
In this dialogical approach, how could they not hope and desire to share with others their joy in knowing and following Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour? We are here at the heart of the mystery of love. Insofar as the Church and Christians have a deep love for the Lord Jesus, the desire to share him with others is motivated not merely by obedience to the Lord's command, but by this love itself. It should not be surprising, but quite normal, that the followers of other religions should also desire sincerely to share their faith. All dialogue implies reciprocity and aims at banishing fear and aggressiveness.
84. Indications of the Holy Spirit
Christians must always be aware of the influence of the Holy Spirit and be prepared to follow wherever in God's providence and design the Spirit is leading them. It is the Spirit who is guiding the evangelizing mission of the Church. It belongs to the Spirit to inspire both the Church's proclamation and the obedience of faith. It is for us to be attentive to the promptings of the Spirit. Whether proclamation be possible or not, the Church pursues her mission in full respect for freedom, through interreligious dialogue, witnessing to and sharing Gospel values. In this way, the partners in dialogue proceed in response to the divine call of which they are conscious. All, both Christians and the followers of other religious traditions, are invited by God himself to enter into the mystery of his patience, as human beings seek his light and truth. Only God knows the times and stages of the fulfillment of this long human quest.
85. The example of Jesus
It is in this climate of expectation and listening that the Church and Christians pursue proclamation and interreligious dialogue with a true Gospel spirit. They are aware that "all things work together for the good of those who love God" (Rm 8:28). By grace they have come to know that he is the Father of all, and that he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Is not Jesus their model and guide in the commitment to both proclamation and dialogue? Is he not the only one who even today can say to a sincere religious person: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God" (Mk 12:34)?
86. Intimately united to Christ
Christians are not only to imitate Jesus, but to be closely united to him. He invited his disciples and friends to join him in his unique offering on behalf of the whole of humanity. The bread and wine for which he gave thanks symbolized the entire creation. They became his body "given" and his blood "poured out for the forgiveness of sins." Through the ministry of the Church, the one Eucharist is offered by Jesus in every age and place, since the time of his passion, death and resurrection in Jerusalem. It is here that Christians unite themselves to Christ in his offering which "brings salvation to the whole world" (Euch. Prayer IV). Such a prayer is pleasing to God who "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tm 2:4). Thus they offer thanks for "everything that is true, everything that is honourable, everything that is upright and pure, everything that we love and admire, whatever is good and praiseworthy" (Ph 4:8). Here they draw the grace of discernment, to be able to read the signs of the Spirit's presence and to recognize the favourable time and right manner of proclaiming Jesus Christ.