Today we observe the 80th World Mission Sunday. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI, who gave a strong impulse to the mission "ad gentes," and in the Jubilee of 1925 promoted a grandiose exhibition which later became the present Ethnological-Missionary Collection of the Vatican Museums. This year, in the usual message on the occasion of this Day, I proposed as a theme "Charity, Soul of the Mission." In fact, if the mission is not inspired by love, it is reduced to philanthropic and social activity. For Christians, however, the words of the Apostle Paul are applicable: "The love of Christ impels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14).(Emphases added.)
The charity that moved the Father to send his Son into the world, and the Son to give himself for us unto death on the cross, that same charity has been poured by the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Every baptized person, as a shoot united to the vine, can cooperate in Jesus' mission, which is summarized thus: to take the good news to every person that "God is love" and, precisely for this reason, wills to save the world.
The mission arises from the heart: When one pauses to pray before a crucifix, looking at that pierced side, one cannot but feel within oneself the joy of knowing that one is loved and the desire to love and to make oneself an instrument of mercy and reconciliation. It is what occurred, exactly 800 years ago, to the young Francis of Assisi, in the little church of San Damiano, which was then dilapidated. From the cross, now kept in the Basilica of St. Claire, Francis heard Jesus, who said: "Go, repair my house, as you can see it is in ruins."
That "house" was above all his own life, which had to be "repaired" through an authentic conversion; it was the Church, not the one made of bricks, but of living people, which always needs purification. It was also the whole of humanity, in whom God wills to make his dwelling. The mission is always born from a heart transformed by the love of God, as witnessed by innumerable histories of saints and martyrs, who in different ways have spent their lives at the service of the Gospel.
Therefore, the mission is a source in which there is room for all: for those who commit themselves to realize the kingdom of God in their own homes; for those who live their professional work with a Christian spirit; for those who consecrate themselves totally to the Lord; for those who follow Jesus the Good Shepherd in the ordained ministry to the People of God; for those who go specifically to proclaim Christ to those who do not yet know him. May Mary Most Holy help us to live with new drive, each one in the situation in which Providence has placed him, the joy and courage of the mission.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
World Mission Sunday: The Pope at today's Angelus