“Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World” is the theme chosen by Pope Francis for the Extraordinary Mission Month. Awakening the awareness of the missio ad gentes, and reinvigorating the sense of responsibility for proclaiming the Gospel with new enthusiasm, are themes that combine the pastoral concern of Pope Benedict XV in his Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, published 100 years ago, with the missionary vitality expressed by Pope Francis in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “Missionary action is the paradigm of every work of the Church.” (EG 15)
There are four dimensions, specified by the Pope, to live more intensely the journey of preparation for the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019:
- A personal encounter with Jesus Christ alive in His Church through the Eucharist, the Word of God, personal and communal prayer;
- Testimony: missionary saints, martyrs and confessors of the faith, as an expression of the Church scattered throughout the world;
- Missionary formation: biblical, catechetical, spiritual and theological;
- Missionary charity.
In his message for Mission Sunday 2019, Pope Francis says:
This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission always; you are a mission always; every baptised man and woman is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love.
What a powerful statement – our life is a mission. I can’t help but think that so many people are not aware of the enormity of the gift of life they have been given, and the responsibility it calls us to. The Extraordinary Missionary Month offers us an opportunity to renew our efforts to grow in discipleship with the Lord. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus and renew our personal relationship with him. Let us draw upon our ancestors in faith and join our footsteps with theirs, as we go out to all the world to proclaim the Good News. We have been given a treasure to be communicated and proclaimed, that is the meaning of mission.
In the resource produced by Catholic Mission for this Extraordinary Mission Month, the following paragraph spoke to me:
The Church is on mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth (cf. Mic 5:4; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8; Rom 10:18) A Church that presses forward to the farthest frontiers requires a constant and ongoing missionary conversion. (p5)
I wonder how many people are urged by this sense of being a missionary on mission. We have an opportunity to express this as part of the Plenary Council listening and discernment process, as well as our own Diocesan Synod process. I am conscious that many have given up hope for multiple reasons, and yet our Trinitarian understanding of God calls us to be in relationship in order to reveal God – love, community, equality, diversity, mercy, compassion and justice. The three persons of the Trinity are constantly creating, healing, reconciling, transforming and uniting the world. It is not the church that has a mission, but the mission has a church as its servant, sign and sacrament.
I hope the following words of Pope Francis provide you with some reflections on becoming, or remaining, a missionary disciple. These words formed the reflection for each of the weeks of the missionary month resource produced by Catholic Mission:
‘I invite Christians, everywhere, at this very moment to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of your do to this unfailingly each day.’
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §3
- How can I accept this invitation to encounter Jesus in my daily life of faith?
If we are to share our lives with others and generously give of ourselves, we also have to realise that every person is worthy of our giving.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §274
- How will I accompany others this week?
The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §24
- How will I encourage others in my community to go forth this week in a missionary spirit?
Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, §127
- How will I accept the challenge of preaching the Good News in word and action this week to people and communities on the margins, locally and globally?
Encourage me in my living and my loving.
Gift me with a gracious spirit,
in order that I may more readily respond
to your call.
While some people are called to go out beyond our shores to be missionaries, I know that many of us are called to mission here, in our growing secular world. I ask that you continue to listen to God’s voice, discern the call and respond generously. Our lives are a mission.
Thank you to the many who heed this call and accompany me on this missionary adventure.