As the Church celebrates 83rd Mission Sunday on October 18, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI invites all the faithful to reflect on the theme: “The nations will come to its light.” The Holy Father through his message wants to encourage in each one the deeper awareness of Christ’s missionary mandate to “make disciples of all peoples” in the footsteps of Saint Paul, the Apostle of the nations. World Mission Sunday, organized by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church’s missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. Annually, World Mission Sunday is celebrated on the next-to-last Sunday in October. This Sunday is an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world. Every year we have a special Sunday set aside to think about our Mission to the world. It is an annual reminder of who we are and what we have to do. The mission comes directly from Jesus to his disciples to go out to the whole world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.
Pope Benedict in his message reminds us that missionary endeavour is the first service which the Church owes humanity. This is who we are. This is what we do. Everything the Church does is part of, or leads up to bringing the gospel to creation. Pope Benedict also reminds us that the courage to evangelise is the measure of our love for God. To say that we are all missionaries is a truism which has no meaning until each person decides what their part is. The church reminds us that 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 offerings that will be collected on World Mission Sunday are destined for a common fund of solidarity distributed, in the Pope’s name, by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith among the missions and missionaries of the entire world. The Holy Father through his message for the day encourages the faithful to respond to the message of Jesus to proclaim to the world his good news.
In his message for the Mission Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI says that the goal of the Church’s mission is to illuminate with the light of the Gospel all peoples journeying through history towards God, so that in Him they may reach their full potential and fulfilment. That impulse to evangelization, and not any desire for earthly power, drives all the work of the Church, he says. The Pope asks all Christians to redouble their commitment to participate in the missionary activity that is an essential component of the life of the Church. Through his message the Holy Father wants to encourage all the faithful to experience deeper awareness of Christ’s missionary mandate to make disciples of all peoples. “We must live the longing and the passion to illuminate all peoples with the light of Christ that shines on the face of the Church, so that all may be gathered into the one human family, under the loving Fatherhood of God,” says the Pontiff. He invites all believers to proclaim strongly that Christ is the salvation of the world. Further he says, “We ask nothing except to put ourselves at the service of all humanity, especially the suffering and the excluded, because we believe that the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity.”
In the Message which bears the title “The nations will come to its light” (Rev 21, 24) the Holy Father underlines once again “the Church works not to extend power or affirm dominion, but to carry, to all, Jesus Christ, the salvation of the world.” In fact the dispersion, multiplicity, conflict, enmity which afflicts humanity “will be calmed and reconciled through the blood of the Cross and led back to unity. This new beginning has already started with the Resurrection and the exaltation of Christ, who draws all things to himself, renewing them and enabling them to share in the eternal joy of God”. Already today, in the contradictions and sufferings of this world, there shines the light of hope for a new life, and the Pontiff underlines that “The Church’s mission is to infect all peoples with hope” and “Christ calls, sanctifies and sends his disciples to announce the Kingdom of God, so that all nations may become the people of God. The universal mission should become a fundamental constant in the life of the Church. To announce the Gospel must be for us, as it was for the Apostle Paul, a primary and impelling duty”.
The Holy Father recalls that the universal Church feels responsible for announcing the Gospel to whole peoples and is aware of her duty to continue Christ’s service in the world, since the measure of her mission and her service is not material or even spiritual needs restricted to temporal existence, instead, it is transcendent salvation, fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. Through the mission given by Jesus Christ, the Church wishes to transform the world with the proclamation of the Gospel of love, calling all the members and institutions of the Church to take part in this mission. Hence the Pontiff says, “The goal of the Church’s mission is to illuminate with the light of the Gospel all peoples journeying through history towards God, so that in Him they may be fully realised and accomplished. We must live the longing and the passion to illuminate all peoples with the light of Christ that shines on the face of the Church, so that all may be gathered into the one human family, under Fatherhood of God. It is in this perspective that the disciples of Christ spread throughout the world work, struggle and groan under the burden of suffering, offering their very lives. Let us once again proclaim strongly what was so frequently affirmed by my venerated Predecessors: the Church works not to extend power or affirm dominion, but to carry, to all, Christ, the salvation of the world.” Christ’s mission on earth is made visible through his service and hence the Pope says that we ask nothing except to put ourselves at the service of all humanity, especially the suffering and the excluded, because we believe that “the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity which has experienced marvellous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself.” The Holy Father then offers the church a full invitation to serve others and says: “With this message I renew my invitation to all the members and institutions of the Church to participate in this mission and this service.”
Dwelling on the subject of mission ad gentes, Pope Benedict XVI underlines the necessity to renew our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel which is leaven of freedom and progress, brotherhood, unity and peace, a particularly urgent task considering widespread and profound changes in present day society: “Animated and inspired by the Apostle of the nations, we must realise that God has a numerous people in all the cities visited by the apostles of today. The whole Church must be committed to mission ad gentes, until the salvific sovereignty of Christ is fully accomplished”. The mission of the Church, therefore, is to call all peoples to the salvation accomplished by God through his incarnate Son, says the Holy Father. “I would confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church a duty and a mission which the widespread and profound changes in present day society render ever more urgent. At stake is the eternal salvation of all people, the goal and the accomplishment of human history and the universe.”
This day dedicated to the missions is also an opportunity to recall and remember local Churches and missionaries who bear witness to and spread the Kingdom of God in situations of persecution, with various forms of oppression ranging from social discrimination to prison, torture and death. No small number of them is put to death for the sake of his “Name”, the name of Jesus. In this way all are called to evangelise even through the martyrdom. Participation in the mission of Christ, in fact, affects also the lives of those who announce the Gospel, for whom is reserved the same destiny as their Master”. The Pope says: “Still tremendously relevant today are the words of my venerated Predecessor, Pope John Paul II: “The Jubilee remembrance has presented us with a surprising vista, showing us that our own time is particularly prolific in witnesses, who in different ways were able to live the Gospel in the midst of hostility and persecution, often to the point of the supreme test of shedding their blood.” Participation in the mission of Christ, in fact, affects also the life of those who announce the Gospel, for whom is reserved the same destiny as their Master. “Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too”.