The theme of evangelisation must be considered in the wider context of the spiritual combat which began in the Garden of Eden with the fall of our first parents, in the wake of fierce hostilities between God and the rebel angels. If this context is ignored in favour of a myopic world-vision, Christ's salvation will be conveniently dismissed as irrelevant.
The spiritual combat, described in the Books of Genesis and Revelation, has continued unabated all down the ages. St Paul described it in very vivid terms: "We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). This combat rages fiercely even today, aided and abetted by well-known secret sects, Satanic groups and New Age movements, to mention but a few, and reveals many ugly heads of the hideous anti-God monster: among them are notoriously secularism, which seeks to build a Godless society; spiritual indifference, which is insensitive to transcendental values; and relativism, which is contrary to the permanent tenets of the Gospel. All of these seek to efface any reference to God or to things supernatural, and to supplant it with mundane values and behaviour patterns which purposely ignore the transcendental and the divine. Far from satisfying the deep yearnings of the human heart, they foster a culture of death, be it physical or moral, spiritual or psychological. Examples of this culture are abortions (or the slaughter of innocent unborn children), divorces (which kill sacred marriage bonds blessed by God), materialism and moral aberrations (which suffocate the joy of living and lead often to profound psychic depression), economic, social and political injustices (which crush human rights), violence, suicides, murders, and the like, all of which abound today and militate against the mind of Christ, who came that "all may have life, and have it in abundance" (Jn 10:10). Two vital institutions of the human society are particularly vulnerable to such a culture of death: the family and the youth. These must, therefore, receive the special attention, guidance and support of those whom the Holy Spirit has placed as shepherds of the flock entrusted to their pastoral care.
Whereas, in the past, the traditional areas of evangelisation were the heart and the home, health and education, care of the sick and the aged, we cannot ignore the new horizons which must be illumined by the light of Christ. Recalling St. Paul's preaching about the "unknown God" in the Areopagus of Athens, we must be aware of the many modern Areopagoi which need to be evangelised today: among these are notably the mass media, the world of science and technology, of politics and social communications, of refugees and migrants, and others.
Then there is the vast gamut of non Christian religions and cultures, with their varied scriptures and sages, prayers and symbols, places of worship and ascetical practices, each exerting a deep influence on the thoughts and life-styles of its followers. This mosaic of religious and cultural -isms is now complicated by a deep questioning about man's identity and purpose in life, rising from the human and social, as well as the physical sciences. While this soul-searching questioning about human life and purpose could be an appropriate context for the proclamation of the Gospel, many answers being proposed in our post-modern world have become disconnected from authoritative sources of moral reasoning, ignoring the transcendental dimension of life and seeking to make God irrelevant. In the Western world, which is increasingly becoming distanced from its Christian traditions and roots, a context of moral confusion has ensued, and sound Christian ethical and moral principles and values are under threat from various quarters.
In the face of such a world context, we Christians - and Bishops, in the first place - can ill afford to remain on the sidelines as passive spectators, or to fall back on a purely maintenance mode, trying to cling on to worn-out clichés, and hiding our light under a bushel (cf Mt 5:15). True to our mission to be "salt of the earth" and "light of the world" and "leaven in the dough", we must be pro-active, and not merely reactive, in reading the signs of the times and projecting our missionary thrust, firmly convinced that He who holds the destinies of humankind in His hands has promised to be with His disciples till the end of time. And hence, as a Chinese proverb goes: "Instead of cursing the darkness, let us light a candle".
You may notice a theme in my most recent blog posts: God calls each of us to a mission; each of us has a unique role to play in Salvation History; each of us must discern our vocation. I didn’t plan to make this the message of the week. It just seems this concept keeps popping up all around me. It is like a spiritual call to arms. The Holy Spirit is saying, “Forward march!” As part of the Church Militant, I guess I better salute smartly and get going!