Abp. Stephen Reichert of Madang introduces Chapter one of Instrumentum Laboris for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization
I am writing this short introduction to chapter one of the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on New Evangelization from the USA. As you know I am on home leave right now. Greetings from Kansas and from Leoville, my little village named after Pope Leo XIII, who was Pope when the first Catholic settlers began farming in this area.
You already know that the Instrumentum Laboris is a working document based on responses to the Lineamenta (outline of the topic of the synod) from dioceses and bishops’ conferences from around the world. Those who gather for the Synod will use this working document as a basis for their discussions. Chapter one of the Instrumentum Laboris, which is now being sent to you, is written is clear and fairly simple language. It is easy to understand, so I encourage all of you to read it carefully.
Chapter one makes a number of important points. First of all it notes that very many Catholics simply do not know very much about our Catholic faith. That means that those who already know and understand the truths of our Catholic religion should share it with others, and not be ashamed or afraid to do this. Preaching the Gospel is done both by word and by the example of living a good Christian life. Implied in this is that the whole Church has the obligation to evangelize, not just bishops, priests, religious and lay ministers.
When the question, “What is the Church?” is asked in Papua New Guinea, we almost always hear the answer, “We are the Church!” meaning everyone who is baptized and united by the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I must say that, from what I see, people in PNG understand this truth much better than many people in America and Europe. Chapter one, the paragraphs under the heading The Church Evangelized and Evangelizing, points out that the Holy Spirit wishes to inspire the whole Church to take up the mission of evangelization. It’s obvious then that we who are the professional preachers and teachers of the faith, the bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders, have to pay a lot of attention to making all members of the laity aware of their mission to evangelize, and prepare them to carry out this mission well and with great commitment.
Some may find what is said in the paragraphs under the heading Duty to Evangelize somewhat controversial. I don’t. When preaching about new evangelization in the cathedral many months ago, I think it might have been during Lent, I told the people that each of us should aim at bringing someone who was not an active member of any church or who had fallen away from the Catholic Church, into our church community. That done, each should begin proposing the faith to yet another person and then another. In my mind, a successful and fruitful new evangelization in the Church, will depend largely on the laity and how successfully they are animated to do this. The job of bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders is to animate the whole of the laity to this task.
That’s all for now. I will circulate the rest of the Instrumentum Laboris over the next couple of weeks.
Archbishop Stephen Reichert OFM Cap.
August 19, 2012
JESUS CHRIST, THE GOOD NEWS OF GOD TO HUMANITY
"The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel." (Mk 1:15)
18. The Christian faith is not simply teachings, wise sayings, a code of morality or a tradition. The Christian faith is a true encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ. Transmitting the faith means to create in every place and time the conditions which lead to this encounter between the person and Jesus Christ. The goal of all evangelization is to create the possibility for this encounter, which is, at one and the same time, intimate, personal, public and communal. Pope Benedict XVI stated: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. [...] Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere 'command'; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us." In the Christian faith, the encounter with Christ and the relationship with him takes place "in accordance to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3, 4). The Church is formed precisely through the grace of this relationship.
19. This encounter with Jesus, through his Spirit, is the Father's great gift to humanity. We are prepared for this encounter through the action of grace in us. In such an encounter, we feel an attraction which leads to our transformation, causing us to see new dimensions to who we are and making us partakers of divine life (cf. 2 Pt 1:4). After this encounter, everything is different as a result of metanoia, that is, the state of conversion strongly urged by Jesus himself (cf. Mk 1:15). In a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, faith takes the form of a relationship with him and in remembrance of him, especially in the Eucharist and the Word of God, and creates in us the mind of Christ, through the Spirit, a mentality which makes us recognize our brothers and sisters, gathered by the Spirit in his Church, and, in turn, see ourselves as witnesses and heralds of this Gospel. This encounter equips us to do new things and witness to the transformation of our lives in the works of conversion as announced by the prophets (cf. Jer 3:6 ff; Ez 36:24-36).
20. This first chapter gives particular attention to this fundamental aspect of evangelization, because the responses to the Lineamenta reported a need to restate the core of the Christian faith which is unknown by many Christians. Consequently, the theological foundation of the new evangelization should not be overlooked, but forcefully and authentically stated, so as to give energy and a proper framework to the Church's evangelizing activity. The new evangelization must initially be seen as an opportunity to gauge the faithfulness of Christians to the mandate received from Jesus Christ. The new evangelization is also an auspicious occasion (cf. 2 Cor 6:2) to return, as an individual Christian and a community, to drink from the source of our faith, and so become more disposed to undertake the work of evangelization and testimony. Indeed, before becoming action, evangelization and testimony are two states-of-mind which, as fruits of a faith in a continual state of purification and conversion, result in our lives from an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Good News of God to humanity.
Jesus Christ, the Evangelizer
21. "Jesus himself, the Good News of God, was the very first and the greatest evangelizer." He revealed himself as being sent to proclaim the fulfilment of the Gospel of God, foretold in the history of Israel, primarily through the prophets, and promised in Sacred Scripture. St. Mark the Evangelist begins his account by connecting "the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" (Mk 1:1) to a corresponding verse from the Scriptures: "As it is written in the prophet Isaiah" (Mk 1:2). In the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus reveals himself in the synagogue at Nazareth through the reading of Scripture, as one who is able to bring the Scripture to fulfilment by his very presence, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21). The Gospel according to St. Matthew has a true and proper series of quotes of fulfilled prophecies, intended to reflect the deeper reality of Jesus, based on what was spoken through the prophets (cf. Mt 1:22; 2:15,17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4). At the time of his arrest, Jesus sums up all things in his Person: "All this has taken place, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." (Mt 26:56). In the Gospel of John, the disciples themselves attest to this connection. After their first encounter, St. Philip states: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote." (Jn 1:45). During his ministry, Jesus repeatedly refers to his relation to Sacred Scripture and the testimony associated with it: "You search the Scriptures, thinking they have in them eternal life: it is they that give testimony of me" (Jn 5:39); "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me" (Jn5:46).
22. The concurring testimony of the Evangelists affirms that the Gospel of Jesus is the radical summation, continuation and total fulfillment of the Scriptures. Precisely because of this continuity, the newness of Jesus appears both clearly and understandably. Indeed, his evangelizing activity continues a history which was begun earlier. His gestures and words are to be read in light of the Scriptures. In the last apparition recounted by St. Luke, the Risen Lord summarizes this understanding by saying: "These are the words which I spoke to you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled"(Lk 24:44). His supreme gift to his disciples will indeed "open their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Lk 24:45). Considering the depth of the Jewish people's relation to the Scriptures, Jesus reveals himself to be the new evangelizer who brings newness and fullness to the Law, Prophets and Wisdom of Israel.
23. For Jesus, the purpose of evangelization is drawing people into his intimate relationship with the Father and the Spirit. This is the primary reason for his preaching and miracles: to proclaim a salvation which, even though manifested through concrete acts of healing, is not meant to indicate a desire for social or cultural change but a profound experience, accessible to each person, of being loved by God and learning to recognize him in the face of a loving and merciful Father (cf. Lk 15). The revelation contained in his words and actions are linked to the words of the prophets. In this regard, the account of the signs performed by Jesus in the presence of the messengers of John the Baptist are emblematic, namely, signs which reveal the identity of Jesus as properly aligned with the great prophetic utterances. St. Luke the Evangelist recounts: "In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them'" (Lk 7:21, 22). The words of Jesus show the full meaning of his actions in relation to the signs contained in countless biblical prophecies (cf. especially Is 29:18; 35:5,6; 42:18; 26:19; 61:1).
The way Jesus treated people is to be considered an essential element of Jesus' method of evangelizing. He was able to welcome everyone, without distinction, and never exclude anyone: first, the poor, then the rich like Zacchaeus and Joseph of Arimathea; outsiders like the centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman; the righteous, like Nathanael; and prostitutes and public sinners with whom he also sat at table. Jesus knew how to plumb the depths of a person and elicit faith in the God who first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10,19), whose love always precedes us and is not dependent on our own merits, because he is love itself: "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8,16). In this manner, he sets down how the Church is to evangelize, demonstrating for her the heart of the Christian faith, namely, to believe in Love and in the face and voice of this Love, namely, Jesus Christ.
24. Jesus' evangelizing actions leads a person quite naturally to a conversion-experience. Every person is called to conversion and to faith in God's merciful love. The kingdom will grow in the manner in which each person learns to turn, in the intimacy of prayer, to God as Father (cf. Lk11:2; Mt 23:9) and, following the example of Jesus Christ, to recognize, in a totally free manner, that the goal of life is fulfilling God's will (cf. Mt 7.21). Evangelization and the call to holiness and conversion are intricately bound together, a matter which needs to be proposed to people here and now, if they are to experience the Kingdom of God in Jesus, and, in turn, become the children of God. The Synod is expected to consider to what extent evangelization and the call to holiness and conversion are present in our communities today and how, through their interaction, they nourish the lives of our communities and produce fruit.
The Church, Evangelized and Evangelizing
25. Those who truly accept the Gospel, precisely as a gift and for the fruits it produces in them, come together in the name of Jesus so as to preserve and nourish the faith which is received and shared, and to continue and grow in this lived-experience. The Gospels recount (cf. Mk 3,13-15) that after the disciples had been with Jesus, after they had lived with him, after they had been introduced by him into a new life-experience and after they had been partakers of his divine life, they were, in turn, sent out to continue this work of evangelization: "He called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. [...] Then they departed and went through the villages, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere" (Lk 9:1, 6).
26. After Christ's death and resurrection, the missionary mandate given to the disciples by the Lord (cf. Mk 16:15) makes an explicit reference to proclaiming the Gospel to everyone, teaching them to observe everything he commanded (cf. Mt 28:20). St. Paul presents himself as "called to be an Apostle [...] set apart for the Gospel of God" (Rm 1:1). The Church's task is thus to bring about atraditio Evangelii, a proclamation and transmission of the Gospel, which is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Rm 1:16) and which ultimately is identified with Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1:24). We know now that when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel, we must think of a living, effective Word, which brings about what is stated (cf. Heb 4:12; Is 55:10) and is a Person: Jesus Christ, the definitive Word of God, who became man.
As in the earthly life of Jesus, the Church's evangelizing mission is properly the work of God and the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost makes the Apostles witnesses and prophets, confirming them in all they shared with Jesus and learned from him (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:17), instilling in them a serene courage which impels them to pass on to others their experience of Jesus and the hope that inspires them. The Spirit gives them the ability to witness to Jesus with parresia (cf. Acts2:29), extending their activity from Jerusalem to all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
27. What the Church has lived from the very beginning, she continues to live today. By re-proposing these truths, Pope Paul VI recalled their contemporary character: "The command to the Twelve to go out and proclaim the Good News is also valid for all Christians, though in a different way [...] The Church knows this. [...] Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ's sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of his death and glorious resurrection." The Church exists in the world to continue Jesus' evangelizing mission, knowing well that in doing so she continues to share in divine life, because she is compelled by the Spirit to proclaim the Gospel in the world and to experience again within herself the presence of the Risen Christ, who brings her into communion with God the Father. Every action performed by the Church is never closed in upon itself but is always an act of evangelization, and, as such, an action that manifests the triune face of our God. The Acts of the Apostles records those actions most intimately involved in the Church's life: prayer, listening to the Word and the Apostles' teaching, a "lived" fraternal charity and the breaking of the bread (cf. Acts 2:42-46). All acquire their full meaning when they become an act of witness, a source of attraction and conversion, and a preaching and proclamation of the Gospel, by the whole Church and each baptized person.
The Gospel, A Gift for Every Person
28. The Gospel of God's love for us, the call to take part in the life of the Father, through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit, is a gift meant for everyone. We proclaim Jesus himself, who calls everyone to conversion for the Kingdom of God. To emphasize this fact, Jesus drew especially near to those on the margins of society, giving them special favour, when he proclaimed the Gospel. At the beginning of his ministry, he proclaimed that he was sent to preach the good news to the poor (cf. Lk 4:18). To those despised and dejected, Jesus declares: "Blessed are you poor" (Lk 6:20) and, by standing with them, enables these individuals already to experience a sense of freedom (cf. Lk5:30; 15:2). He eats with them, treats them as brothers and sisters and as friends (cf. Lk 7:34) and helps them to feel loved by God, thus revealing his great compassion for sinners and those in need.
29. The freedom and salvation brought by the Kingdom of God touch every human person both physically and spiritually. Two actions are attached to Jesus' work of evangelization: healing and forgiving. Multiple miracles of healing clearly demonstrate his great compassion in the face of human misery. They also indicate that, in the Kingdom, there will no longer be sickness and suffering and that, from the outset, his mission is aimed at freeing people from sickness and suffering (cf. Rev 21:4). Jesus' miracles of healing are also a sign of the salvation of the spirit, namely liberation from sin. In performing acts of healing, he invites people to faith, conversion and a desire for forgiveness (cf. Lk 5:24). Received in faith, healing leads to salvation (cf. Lk 18:42). Deliverance from demonic possession, the ultimate evil and symbol of sin and rebellion against God, is a sign that "the Kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mt 12:28) and that the Gospel, a gift of salvation meant for every person, initiates us into a process of transformation and participation in the life of God, who renews us in the present moment.
30. "I have no silver or gold but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6). Like St. Peter the Apostle, the Church also continues faithfully to proclaim the Gospel for the good of each person. To the cripple who asks him for something on which to live, St. Peter responds by offering the gift of the Gospel which heals him, thus opening the way to salvation. In this way, in the course of time, in virtue of her work of evangelization, the Church gives flesh and visibility to the prophecy in Revelation: "Behold I make all things new." (Rev 21:5), transforming humanity and history itself from within, so that the faith of Christ and the life of the Church might no longer be foreign to the society in which both humanity and history exist, but can permeate and transform it.
31. Evangelization consists in proposing the Gospel which transforms the human individual, his world and his personal story. The Church evangelizes when, in virtue of the power of the Gospel proclaimed (cf. Rm 1:16), she takes every human experience and gives it rebirth through the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. Rm 6:4), immersing each one in the newness of Baptism and life according to the Gospel and in the Son's relationship to his Father, so as to feel the power of the Spirit. The transmission of the faith is the goal of evangelization which, according to the divine plan, is to bring all people through Christ to the Father in the Spirit (cf. Eph 2:18). This experience of the newness of the Gospel transforms every person. Today, we can hold to this conviction with greater surety, because history has left us extraordinary examples of courage, dedication, boldness, intuition and reason in the Church's work of bringing the Gospel to every person, acts of holiness which are displayed in a variety of notable and significant ways on every continent. Every particular Church can boast of persons of outstanding holiness, who have been able to give renewed power and energy to the work of evangelization through their activities and, primarily, through their witness. Their example of holiness also provides prophetic and clear indications in devising new ways to live out the task of evangelization. They have repeatedly left us accounts in their writings, prayers, models and methods of teaching, spiritual journeys, journeys of initiation into the faith, works and educational institutions.
32. While strongly referring to the power of these examples of holiness, some responses also mention the difficulties in making these experiences contemporary and transmissible. Sometimes, it seems that these historical works not only belong to a past age, but are almost confined there, because they lack the ability to communicate the evangelical character of their witness in the present-day. The Synod is asked to discuss these difficulties and attempt to discover the underlying reasons why the activities and witness of various Church institutions lack credibility when they speak as bearers of the Gospel of God.
The Duty to Evangelize
33. Every person has the right to hear the Gospel of God to humanity, which is Jesus Christ. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, humanity today needs to hear the words of Jesus: "If you knew the gift of God" (Jn 4:10), because these words elicit the deep desire for salvation which lies in everyone: "Lord, give me this water, that I may not thirst" (Jn 4:15). This right of every person to hear the Gospel is clearly stated by St. Paul. Tireless in his preaching, he looks upon his work of proclaiming the Gospel as a duty, because he understood its universal significance: "For if I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). Every man and woman should be able to say, like him, that "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us" (Eph 5:2). Furthermore, every man and women should be able to feel drawn into an intimate and transforming relationship which the proclamation of the Gospel creates between us and Christ: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). To give others the possibility of having a similar experience requires that someone be sent to proclaim it: "How are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rm 10:14 which repeats Is 52:1).
34. We can therefore understand how every one of the Church's actions has an essential evangelizing character and must never be separated from the duty to help others encounter Christ in faith, the primary goal of evangelization. If as a Church, "we bring people only knowledge, ability or technical skill and tools, we bring them too little." The original reason for evangelization is the love of Christ which seeks to bring everyone to eternal salvation. The one desire of genuine evangelizers is to give freely what they have freely received: "From the very origins of the Church the disciples of Christ strove to convert men to faith in Christ as the Lord; not, however, by the use of coercion or of devices unworthy of the Gospel, but by the power, above all, of the word of God."
35. The mission of the Apostles and its continuation in the primitive Church remain the basic model for evangelization at all times as a mission often marked by martyrdom, which is witnessed not only at the beginning of the history of Christianity but also in the last century, and even in our own times. Martyrdom gives credibility to those who bear witness; they do not seek power or gain, but give their very lives for Christ. They show the world the defenceless yet powerful love for humanity, which is given to those who follow Christ to the point of totally surrendering their lives, as Jesus proclaimed: "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (Jn 15:20).
However, erroneous beliefs unfortunately exist which limit the duty to proclaim the Good News. In fact, "there is today a growing confusion which leads many to leave the missionary command of the Lord unheard and ineffective (cf. Mt 28:19). Often it is maintained that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom. From this perspective, it would only be legitimate to present one's own ideas and to invite people to act according to their consciences, without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. It is enough, so they say, to help people to become more human or more faithful to their own religion; it is enough to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity. Furthermore, some maintain that Christ should not be proclaimed to those who do not know him, nor should joining the Church be promoted, since it would also be possible to be saved without explicit knowledge of Christ and without formal incorporation in the Church."
36. Although non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in ways known only to himself, the Church cannot overlook the fact that each person seeks to know the true face of God and to enjoy today the friendship of Jesus Christ, God-with-us. Adhering fully to Christ, the Truth, and becoming a member of his Church does not diminish human freedom, but rather enhances it and leads it to fulfilment through a selfless love and caring for the welfare of all people. What a priceless gift it is to live in the universal embrace of God's friends, which comes from communion with the life-giving flesh and blood of his Son, to receive from him the certainty that our sins are forgiven and to live in the love which is born of faith! The Church desires that everyone should partake of these riches, so that they may have the fullness of truth and the means of salvation "to obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rm 8:21). The Church, who proclaims and transmits the faith, imitates God himself who communicates with humanity by giving his Son, who, in turn, pours out the Holy Spirit so that people can be reborn as children of God.
Evangelization and Church Renewal
37. The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is "the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the 'mighty works of God', which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel." The Second Vatican Council has strongly taken up the subject of the Church who is evangelized by constant conversion and renewal in order to evangelize the world with credibility. In this regard, the words of Pope Paul VI still have meaning today as he reaffirms the priority of evangelization and reminds the faithful: "It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God's mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame - what St. Paul called 'blushing for the Gospel' - or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it?"More than one response has proposed that this subject be specifically treated during the synod's deliberations.
38. Since her origin, the Church has had to deal with similar difficulties as well as the sinfulness of her members. The story of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) is emblematic of the fact that knowledge of Christ can fail. The two disciples from Emmaus speak of a dead man (cf. Lk 24:21-24) and relate their disappointment and hopelessness. These disciples demonstrate the possibility for the Church in every age to be the bearer of a message that does not give life, but stops short in the death of the Christ who is proclaimed, in the announcers themselves, and, consequently, in the recipients of the announcement also. St. John the Evangelist's account of the Apostles who were fishing (cf. Jn 21.1 to 14) describes a similar experience. Apart from Christ, the disciples' efforts are fruitless. Just as for the disciples of Emmaus, only when the Risen Christ manifests himself to them does their trust and the joy of proclaiming return as the fruits of the work of evangelization. Only in strongly attaching himself to Christ once again, is St. Peter, who had been called "fisher of men" (Lk 5:10), able to successfully cast the nets, trusting in the Lord's words.
39. What is so painstakingly described in the beginning of the Church has sometimes reoccurred in her history. On many occasions, a weakening of fervour in one's relationship with Christ has adversely affected the calibre of the life of faith and the experience of participating in the Trinitarian life, which is bound to it. For this reason, we cannot forget that the proclamation of the Gospel is primarily a spiritual matter. The need to transmit the faith, which is essentially an ecclesial, communal event and not singly or done alone, should not result from seeking effective communication strategies or in choosing a certain group of recipients for example, young people but must look to who is entrusted with this spiritual work. The Church must question herself in this matter. This allows the problem to be approached not in an extrinsic manner but from within, involving the entire life and being of the Church. Many particular Churches request that the Synod determine whether the lack of effects in evangelization today, as well as in catechesis in modern times, is primarily the result of ecclesial and spiritual factors. This concerns the Church's ability to live as a real community, as a true brotherhood and as a Living Body and not simply a human establishment.
40. In knowing how to maintain the fundamental spiritual character of evangelization, the Church can allow herself to be formed by the action of the Holy Spirit and be conformed to Christ Crucified, who reveals to the world the face of the love of God and communion with him. In so doing, she can become more aware of her vocation as Ecclesia Mater by begetting children for the Lord in transmitting the faith and teaching a love which nurtures her children. At the same time, she fulfills her responsibility to proclaim and bear witness to this Revelation of God and gather her people scattered throughout the world, thereby fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy which the Church Fathers understood as addressed to her, "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your descendants will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities" (Is 54:2, 3 ).