SFX Bulletin, 19 October 2014: World Mission Sunday was first celebrated by Pope Pius XI in 1927 making today the 88th World Mission Sunday. The objective, as always, has been to remind us of our baptismal privilege in being able to encounter Christ so intimately through the Church’s sacraments. In coming to know him so personally, we should all feel the urgency to tell others of God’s merciful love. Our lives then, by our words and works, become a revelation of His love in us.
Our Holy Father’s message for this year’s Mission Sunday begins by highlighting a spiritual void in the world, “Today vast numbers of people still do not know Jesus Christ…”. This void is meant to be tackled by all the baptised members of the Church, “All the members of the Church are called to participate in this mission, for the Church is missionary by her very nature: she was born ‘to go forth’” (Ad Gentes 2, Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church).
As we read this week’s Liturgy of the Word, we recall the origin of this mandate which Jesus gave to “the Eleven” before his ascension, “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved…” (v.16). These words of our Lord, and his apostles’ faithful obedience to this mandate should fill us with great joy and deep gratitude. Without the Lord’s mandate which reveals God’s love for all men as universal regardless of race, gender and social standing, and the apostles’ whole-hearted fidelity to their mission even to the point of laying down their lives for the spread of the gospel, (St. Peter was crucified in Rome, St. Andrew on an X-shaped cross in Scythia, Southern Russia; St. James, the son of Alphaeus was stoned to death in Syria…) we, today, would not have received the gospel and come to partake of God’s life in the Church and her sacraments – especially the Eucharist – “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11; CCC 1324).
St. Paul’s letter to the Gentile converts in Ephesus (Turkey) is another jolting reminder that the “universality” of God’s intention was not that obvious to the apostles. The apostles preached mainly to Jews and converts to Judaism. The early Church therefore consisted mainly of Jewish Christians. The realization that Jesus died also for the non-Jewish people came gradually (cf. Acts.10:5 Cornelius’ conversion). One need not become a Jew before becoming a Christian. St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians states that “pagans now share the same inheritance…are parts of the same body and that the same promise has been made to you in Christ Jesus” (v.6). This “promise” is to be “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom.8:17) – the security of a place in heaven for eternal life if we live our lives as Christ lived his – unceasingly proclaiming the goodness of God through words and deeds of healing, restoration and love because we have been touched to our depths with God’s love for us (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19).
Through Jesus, God has opened a direct path for everyone to Him! However, without first being humble and vulnerable to experience God’s mercy, even our dutiful desire to ‘proclaim the Good News” will sound hollow and grow increasingly burdensome. In consecrating the Church in Singapore to Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation, Archbishop William Goh said, “To be an evangelizer, we must firstly be the recipient of the Good News ourselves. This is the first prerequisite. Jesus is the Eternal Word of the Father. We must be hearers of the Word before we can proclaim to others…Unless we are moved and inspired and converted by the Word of God, we cannot proclaim to others. This is the real temptation. Many of us have not yet been salted by the Word of God but are trying to evangelise others. We can’t give what we have not got. Evangelisation must begin with the evangelizer”.
To what Martha perceived as Mary’s ‘idleness” in simply listening to Jesus, Jesus said, “…few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Lk.10:42). Let us resolve today to make time to pray, study and contemplate Jesus.