Mission Sunday October 19, 2008

            Each parish around the world celebrates World Mission Sunday on the second to last Sunday of October.  Our prayers and donations on World Mission Sunday help to support churches, hospitals, schools and vocations in countries where the Church is new, young or poor. It is our chance to show our love and solidarity with our brothers and sisters who share our faith; to support them in our shared mission of showing the love of God for all.  Thanks to Mission Sunday we can join with the whole Church in bringing spiritual and material help to those who need it most. The Association for the Propagation of the Faith (APF) is responsible for coordinating World Mission Sunday and provides new, young or poor dioceses with the essential support they need on their journey to becoming self-sufficient. 

The 82nd World Mission Day will be celebrated on October 19, 2008. In the Pope’s address, he explains that the current international situations of violence, poverty, discrimination, persecution, environmental concerns, and attacks on human life reveal that “humanity is suffering, it awaits true liberty, it awaits a new and better world, it awaits ‘redemption’.” “Is there hope for the future? Or rather, is there a future for humanity?” The Holy Father asks. For those who believe in Christ, “the answer to these questions comes from the Gospel…Christ is our future.”

To be missionaries then means to love God with all one’s heart, even to the point of giving one’s life for him. How many priests, men and women religious and laity, even in our time, have rendered supreme witness of their love for him by their martyrdom! To be missionaries, is to tend, like the good Samaritan, to the needs of all, particularly those of the poor and the needy, because he who loves with the heart of Christ, searches not for his own interest but only for the glory of God and the good of his neighbour. World Mission Day is an appropriate occasion for better understanding that witness of love, soul of the mission, concerns everyone. Indeed to serve the Gospel can never be considered a solitary adventure, but a binding duty for every community.

This is the theme for the Holy Father Benedict XVI’s Message for the 82nd World Mission Day: “On the occasion of World Missions Day, I would like to invite you all to reflect on the urgent need to announce the Gospel, also in our own times. The missionary mandate continues to be an absolute priority for all baptized persons, called to be ‘servants and apostles of Jesus Christ,’ at the dawn of this millennium.” From this is born the mission’s “urgent duty” that bases every activity on the “spiritual energy” of God’s love for us, the contemplation of “Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God”. “So it is God, who is Love, who leads the Church towards the frontiers of humanity”.

This urgency calls upon the sense of responsibility not only of missionaries, but also of all bishops, priests and lay people of the world; the more so since many today are “waiting for the proclamation of the Gospel. The Message titled Servants and Apostles of Christ Jesus is being used in dioceses to organise reflections, actions and fund raising for World Mission Day.

From this is born the mission’s “urgent duty” that bases every activity on the “spiritual energy” of God’s love for us, the contemplation of “Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God.” “So it is God, who is Love, who leads the Church towards the frontiers of humanity”.  The good concern to go out to every nation to bring this proclamation “continues to be a priority. No reason can justify its slackening or stagnation.” “Today,” the Pontiff added, “there are countless people who are waiting for the proclamation of the Gospel, those who are thirsting for hope and love.”  Although there are according to the Pope “growing difficulties” like a shortage of clergy, he reaffirms the need to proclaim the Gospel as a “duty and joy.”

In the first paragraph of the Message, Benedict XVI recalls that even today humanity “awaits true liberty” and “redemption.” The international panorama offers a vision of both “promising signs of economic and social progress,” as well as “deep concerns regarding the very future of mankind.” Among these matters of apprehension, he names violence, poverty, discrimination and sometimes even persecution for racial, cultural and religious reasons; technological advancements, “when their end is not the dignity and good of man, and when it is not ordered towards a development of solidarity;” the threat in man’s relationship with the environment “due to the careless use of resources, which has repercussions on man’s physical and mental health.;” and the attacks on human life, that take on various forms and methods. “The answer to these questions about the future comes from the Gospel. Christ is our future.”

The Pope recalls that “the primary evangelization continues being necessary and urgent in many parts of the world.” Though the Church may appear to be facing trying times, “such difficulties as a shortage of priests and a lack of vocations, Christ’s mandate to evangelize all people remain a priority,”

Pope Benedict XVI later recalled: “Today there are a countless number of people waiting the preaching of the Gospel; they are thirsting for hope and love. How many let themselves be moved in the depths of their hearts by this petition for help that comes forth from humanity, and leave everything for Christ to communicate the faith and love for Him to mankind!”

In direct address to the bishops he said that each one of them “is consecrated not only for his diocese, but for the salvation of the whole world.” Like Saint Paul they must “reach out to those who are far away and do not know Christ yet or have still not experienced his liberating love.” A Bishop’s commitment is to make the whole diocesan community missionary by contributing willingly, according to the possibilities, to sending priests and laypersons to other Churches for the evangelization service.  Similarly he calls upon the priests to be “generous pastors and enthusiastic evangelizers” and on men and women religious to bear “consistent witness to Christ and radical following of his Gospel.” “Many of you,” says the Holy Father, “in these past decades have gone to the mission territories, and gave an impulse to cooperation between the Churches. 

Speaking to the religious, the Holy Father says: “dear men and women religious, whose vocation is marked by a strong missionary connotation, bring the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone, especially those who are far away, through consistent witness to Christ and radical following of his Gospel.  And lay people are asked to work with the mission in the world’s “complex and multiform areopagus.”  He says: Give witness with your lives that Christians “belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage”

Finally in his message the Pope makes a note of the importance of prayer and calls everyone to pray, “The essential spiritual means for spreading among all peoples the light of Christ.” Then he entrusts to the Lord “the apostolic work of the missionaries, the Churches all over the world and the faithful involved in various missionary activities and invoke the intercession of the Apostle Paul and Holy Mary.”

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