As Christians we are called to evangelization. We have been given the mission to spread the Gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. To that end Christian missionaries have traveled throughout the world, converting entire countries to the Faith.
But Korea is an exception. It was not evangelized through missionaries, but through the Korean laity.
In the 18th century, young scholars were searching for ideas that would guide their divided country. They studied Western literature and became fascinated with Christianity and the concept of God as a merciful Father. Over time, fascination turned into belief.
At the time Korean delegation made periodic trips to Peking to establish commercial and cultural exchanges. During one such trip the Koreans brought back Father Matteo Ricci’s book, “The True Doctrine of God.”
A Korean layman, Lee Byok, was inspired by this book and founded the first Christian community sometime around 1780. Byok asked a member of this community who was going to China, to be baptized and bring back more books and writings on the Catholic faith.
Lee Byok organized the community as best he could without the guidance of missionaries. He died at the age of 31.
But his community continued and when they learned about ecclesial structure and the role of the Church hierarchy, it submitted itself to the Bishop of Peking.
The Catholic church in Korea stands as an example of man’s need for God, a need that is filled by the Church Jesus established here on earth.
During this time of Easter, between the Resurrection and Pentecost, the readings at mass follow along as Jesus guides the Church in its first steps. As the day draws near for Jesus to ascend to the Father, He begins to prepare His followers for a time when He will no longer be physically visible to them. Instead, He prepares them for a time when God will lead the Church in a hidden way, through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus assures His followers that if they believe, they will not only perform miracles such as He did, but the Church will do even greater deeds. From the very beginning, God reserved for His Church a role in the world that Jesus Himself did not wish to have.
We have seen the results. The impact of the Church on the world is all around us. Social mores, the university system, science, art, architecture, hospitals and charities all bear the imprint of the Catholic Church. Jesus laid the foundation for a Church built of living stones, a Church that would change the world.
But sadly over the last few hundred years, the forces of secularism have had a greater influence on society. Past evils have reasserted themselves in new ways. The modern world bears many similarities to the world in which the early Church fought for its life.
Jesus promised us, that if we have faith, we would prevail and do great works. It is time for us to change the world once again.