Communication for Evangelization

Welcome Homily of His Eminence Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila, at the inaugural mass for the General Assembly of UNDA, in Manila, on 1 November 1980. From the book Communication and Development, published by the Communication Foundation for Asia, 1981

My dear friends, to welcome you to the Archdiocese of Manila for a conference on Christian communication is the pleasure and privilege which has been accorded me today. I welcome you with special joy because His Holiness Pope John Paul II has made me a member of the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications.

Only recently we concluded our celebration of four hundred years of Christianity in Manila, recalling the first communication of Good News in this city. We welcome you into our midst — you whose task it is to proclaim the Good News to the entire world.

The Son of God came among us to communicate God’s goodness to man. He used the Scriptures as his basic vehicle. In the scriptures were contained the history of Israel, and Yahweh’s communications with His Chosen People – through Creation, through Deliverance, and through the forming of a Nation.

This inter-communication is recorded through history, myth, parable, song, poem, prayer and prophesy. Christ used these traditions, together with the culture of his people, their daily life and their beliefs, their needs and their hopes, their environment and their customs to communicate his message.

While the core of his message was Himself as the manifestation of the Father, the medium he used to communicate himself was total language of his people. He spoke through all the symbols that were known and loved by His nation.

He went to the synagogues, to the temple, into the streets and market-places. He spoke to the people in stories, in wisdom sayings, in question-and-answer sessions, through signs and miracles proclaiming the Good News. He stood before his people as the master story teller. He dramatized his message through action, through miracles, which were the signs of inner realities, the signs of truth.

At the moment of his incarnation he became totally identified with his “audience”. This identification continued throughout his life – in his language, in his way of living, and his observance of the law. His communication was made perfect when he gave up his life; and it continues now by the giving of his Spirit to all men. Our task as communicators consists in making preparation for this ultimate communication of Christ with each individual in the Spirit, by identifying our communication with the perfect communication of Christ.

For Christian communication to be effective, it should have the same qualities as the communication of Christ: love, gracefulness, loyalty to truth.

His communication was an expression of unconditional love. This love was particularly manifest in his generosity. There was nothing he left undone, in order to communicate. He used every available means with originality, with creativity and without prejudice regarding the limited condition of man. His identity with his “audience” was total, absolute and irrevocable. In his communication, he did not calculate the cost, although he knew fully well that it would cost him everything. Even as he began to communicate, he was fully prepared to spend himself to the end – he began by emptying himself and becoming a slave.

The second discernible quality of his communication was its gracefulness. He came to reconcile God and man, to bring peace. His attitude was that of absolute friendship, without in any way being discouraged by the limitation of man: his blindness, his prejudice, his ignorance, his selfishness – even his wickedness. To all this, Christ responded with absolute friendship. In spite of constant opposition, discouragement and threats to his life, he continued to respond generously. He communicated friendship and grace.

The third attribute of Christ’s communication was loyalty to truth. Fully human and surrounded by pressures of every kind, he refused to compromise or even to de-emphasize aspects which provoked violent opposition. He was not swayed in the proclamation of the truth either by promise or by threat, nor did he use truth as a banner for rebellion. He communicated the truth always in the fullness of grace, with courage, patience and compassion. The socio-political implications of the truth proclaimed made him neither afraid nor stubborn. He consistently avoided socio-emotional ramifications of the truth, bending neither to conservation nor to liberalism merely for political advantage. He lived the truth in grace – and so Christ had credibility!

He combined idealism and compassion. He challenged his followers to attain the highest peaks of sanctity by saying, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”, but he was also the first to understand the weakness of man. He expressed his compassion saying: “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” While he fought relentlessly to uphold the ideals of absolute perfection, he never wearied of showing compassion to the individual sinner “seventy times seven times”. His whole communication was permeated with compassion.

Our communication, whatever medium it uses, will have the same content – love. Both the content and the format of our communication have to be filled with heartfelt, human love.

This communication has also to be filled with grace, permeated with friendship.

The message that we have to bring to others must always be the truth. But the final test of Christian communication has to be the spirit of compassion, creating for each individual the freedom to live and the freedom to love.

Nine years ago, the Church expressed the urgency with which modern media of social communications have to be used to proclaim the Good News to the modern world in its pastoral instruction “Inter Mirifica”. This document said: “Indeed it would be difficult to suggest that Christ’s command was being obeyed unless all the opportunities offered by the modern media to extend to vast numbers of people the announcement of his Good News were being used.”

It is this urgency which has brought you together in our city, to reach for better means of communicating God’s love to our brothers and sisters. In the name of that message which was brought into this city four hundred years ago, and in the spirit of the faith which has grown from that message. I welcome you today.

I pray that the same Spirit which filled the first Christian communicators in the Upper Room may fill your hearts and minds, and make your deliberation fruitful. I welcome each and every one of you with love and friendship, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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