In 1926 Pope Pius XI, instituted World Mission Sunday for the universal Church. He asked Catholics to pray, learn about the missions and give donations for those working in mission territories as well as all the people they served. His concern was to foster a sense of responsibility in all Catholic people for supporting the Missions throughout the world. Next Sunday will be the 94th year of celebrating World Missions Sunday.
The yearly World Mission Sunday celebration reminds us that the call to bring the Gospel to others remains as necessary today as it from our very beginnings in 1st century Palestine. In our world today being missionary is not only those called to go to other cultures, languages and lands, it is also, perhaps even more of a challenge, to bring the Gospel to our city, our neighborhoods our society. For centuries dedicate men and women took up the call of Jesus to bring the Gospel to others. This call led many people to sacrifice greatly in order to share their faith in the message of Jesus with others, We, here in the USA are the beneficiaries of dedicated priests, religious men and women and faith-filled laity who brought the "Good News" of Jesus to our lands. However, vocations to religious life and priesthood have diminished sharply in the past few years.
Pope Francis reminds us, “Many parts of the world are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Often this is due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract. The joy of the Gospel is born of the encounter with Christ and from sharing with the poor. For this reason, I encourage parish communities, associations and groups to live an intense fraternal life, grounded in love for Jesus and concern for the needs of the most disadvantaged. Wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise.”
We are blessed here at St. Peter's Friary with having two young Franciscan religious from the Custody of St. Benedict of the Amazon, staying with us as they study for the priesthood at Catholic Theological Union (CTU) in Hyde Park. Br. Erlison and Br. Vagner after completing their studies will return to Brasil to minister in the places served by their Franciscan Custody. Along with their studies they also help taking care of the front office and serve as greeters here at St. Peter's.
St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrated last weekend, soon after other men began to follow after him, sent his new brothers out "two by two" to bring the Gospel to others. Francis tried to live all his life the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted to share the deep love he had for Christ with others. His deep devotion to the missionary spirit he instilled in his followers as he sent them out as missionaries. It is that sense of being sent to bring Good News to others that motivated St. Francis is also what Pope Francis encourages we who are Church today to also live.
I offer below some passages from Pope Francis's Message for World Mission Day 2020. This year he chose the theme of "Here am I, send me" (Isaiah 6:8). May each of us acknowledge God's call to us to bring the Gospel to others and may we respond to God as Isaiah did centuries ago, "Here I am, send me!"
Pope Francis Message for World Mission Day 2020
In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” (6:8). This is the ever-new response to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send?” (ibid.). This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis. “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying ‘We are perishing’ (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this” (Meditation in Saint Peter’s Square, 27 March 2020). We are indeed frightened, disoriented and afraid. Pain and death make us experience our human frailty, but at the same time remind us of our deep desire for life and liberation from evil. In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbor presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.
“The mission, the ‘Church on the move’, is not a program, an enterprise to be carried out by sheer force of will. It is Christ who makes the Church go out of herself. In the mission of evangelization, you move because the Holy Spirit pushes you, and carries you” God always loves us first and with this love comes to us and calls us. Our personal vocation comes from the fact that we are sons and daughters of God in the Church, his family, brothers and sisters in that love that Jesus has shown us. All, however, have a human dignity founded on the divine invitation to be children of God and to become, in the sacrament of Baptism and in the freedom of faith, what they have always been in the heart of God.
Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church. Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life? Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church? Are we, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, ready to be completely at the service of God’s will (cf. Lk 1:38)? This interior openness is essential if we are to say to God: “Here am I, Lord, send me” (cf. Is 6:8). And this, not in the abstract, but in this chapter of the life of the Church and of history.
Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenge us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless and those who lack food challenge us. Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others.
And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation. The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday. In all of this, God’s question: “Whom shall I send?” is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: “Here am I, send me!” (Is 6:8). God continues to look for those whom he can send forth into the world and to the nations to bear witness to his love, his deliverance from sin and death, his liberation from evil (cf. Mt 9:35-38; Lk 10:1-12).
Your prayers and generous gift to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the second collection boxes next weekend will help the work of priests, religious and lay people throughout the world as they offer practical help, the experience of God’s love, mercy, hope and peace to those they serve in their mission area.
And remember.........Don't forget to register to VOTE if you have not done so already and remember to VOTE in this very important election year.