Towards 50th Year of “Development and Evangelization”: Revisiting the missiological reflection of Samuel Rayan – Xavier Tharamel, SJ

In the decade of 1970s, Samuel Rayan’s paper “Development and Evangelization: A Theological Sketch” was one of the most widely spread and eagerly read document in the academic and missionary circles in the US. Through this groundbreaking paper, Rayan brought in a new perspective to the missiological reflection that helped many to think with the Church in the light of Second Vatican Council. The basic dilemma of 1960s was to find meaning in the task of evangelization within a dehumanized world, especially in the Latin American context. Rayan explained that “the task of evangelization consists in confronting men and women with an experience of God’s love with its challenge to decision and response.” It is through exploring the needs of our mission spaces, on the quality of our relationships, and on the reimagining of our structures for our mission and the community life, one can meaningfully engage in the evangelization. According to Rayan “Development is much more than escape from misery, disease and ignorance. It is a question rather of building a world in which every man and woman can live a fully human life; a new world in which human persons can be truly free of every form of servitude.” Development and evangelization are to be intertwined with each other to unfold God’s love for men and women. For Rayan, there are two dimensions for this unfolding process: (a) one is through the outward preservation and transformation of the world through adequate structures; (b) an inner renewal of sinful human persons through the Gospel. These two aspects are interconnected and thus, capable of shaping the Mission of the Church. To give emphasis to one without considering the other will put the Mission into deep crisis. Rayan’s brilliant exposition clarifies the vision of the Second Vatican Council to take seriously “the commitment to a better future on this earth could not be adequately distinguished from a commitment to the Kingdom of God.” He remarkably correlates the needs of the human person with the needs of the earth. To put it directly, Rayan introduced the issue of ecology and the survival of planet in 1970 when the world was not considerably sensitive about its future. The indissoluble relationality between the human person and the planet is given emphasis all through his approach. Rayan realizes that the survival and development of the entire creation as dependent upon relationships of love, particularly needed for human growth in a planet growing smaller and more limited. This inter-dependency emboldens him to state that “No area and form of service, however common and unecclesiastical, lies outside the scope of the Church’s Mission. The Mission is the setting where Christ’s love unfolds for the entire creation through His disciples. Christ’s love must be communicated with all its human consequences. This is actualized through the disciples’ involvement in the human historical contexts to transform the world through adequate structures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *