Mission is to serve and fill all peoples with hope
On this World Mission Sunday we have the example of Jesus put before us (Gospel), who “did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 45). He is the greatest, but he made himself the servant, he is the first but became the slave of all (v. 44). Jesus who washes the feet of his disciples, goes through the Agony in the Garden, is crucified… these are facts sufficient to convince us about what He says in today's Gospel. Jesus drank the chalice of the Passion to the dregs, and with such love! He received the baptism of death and resurrection (v. 38). Thus he, the true Servant of the Lord, fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (1st Reading): he offered himself in atonement, taking our faults on himself, and seeing numerous heirs (vv. 10-11). Since He, the great High Priest (2nd Reading), was able to feel our weaknesses with us, all peoples are invited to draw closer to Him with full trust, “that we may receive mercy, and may find grace for help in time of need” (v. 16).
“To drink the chalice - to receive the baptism” are expressions which point out for Jesus a journey of death and resurrection, so that all may have life in abundance (Jn.10:10). Jesus wants to associate all his disciples in this missionary action: those who are baptised in His Name and those whom He calls (priests, men and women religious, laity) to a vocation of special consecration. It is from this sacramental identification with Jesus that the gift of commitment to Mission, that is, the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples who do not yet know it, is for everyone.
When the Master asks: “Can you drink the chalice....?” the disciples James and John answer: “We can” (v. 38). There is presumption in the reply, but there is also generosity and courage. After the Pentecost of the Spirit, they will really have the strength to give that supreme witness. Even today, faced with the numerous demands of the missionary commitment of the Church to the whole world, all Catholics are called on to give concrete and creative responses, according to the ability of each. Some are called to a life-long missionary service, even in distant and difficult areas; some are asked for their very lives. All are asked for their contribution of prayer and of solidarity in sharing with those in need.
In his Message for World Mission Sunday, the Pope reminds us all that the spirit of service is fundamental for a convincing and unfailing announcement of the Gospel of Jesus. (*) «The disciples of Christ spread throughout the world work, struggle and groan under the burden of suffering, offering their very lives. I strongly reiterate what was so frequently affirmed by my venerable Predecessors: the Church works not to extend her power or assert her dominion, but to lead all people to Christ, the salvation of the world. We seek only to place 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" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1), which "has experienced marvellous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself" (Redemptoris Missio, 2)».
An example of gratuitous service to its extreme consequences is certainly that of St. Damien de Veuster, a leper missionary in the Islands of Hawaii, canonised on 11 October 2009 by Benedict XVI: “His missionary activity, which gave him so much joy, reached its climax in charity. Without fear or repugnance, he made the decision to go to the island of Molokai in the service of the lepers who were living there, abandoned by all; and so exposed himself to the illness from which they were suffering. With them he felt at home. The servant of the Word thus became a suffering servant, a leper among lepers, during the last four years of his life.”
The Pope’s words
(*) “The Church's mission is to spread hope contagiously among all peoples. This is why Christ calls, justifies, sanctifies and sends his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God, so that all nations may become the People of God. It is only in this mission that the true journey of humanity is understood and attested. The universal mission should become a fundamental constant in the life of the Church. Proclamation of the Gospel must be for us, as it was for the Apostle Paul, a primary and unavoidable duty”.
Message for World Mission Sunday 2009, n. 1
In the missionaries’ footsteps
- 18/10: World Mission Sunday, with the theme: “Gospel without boundaries”.
- 18/10: St. Luke, author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, accompanied Paul in his missionary journey to Macedonia and later to other places (Acts 16,10ff.).
- 19/10: SS. John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues, Jesuits priests, and other six companions, missionaries among the Huron and the Iroquois Indians (United States of America and Canada, +1642-1649).
- 19/10: St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), promoter of popular missions based on the Passion of Christ; he founded the Passionists.
- 20/10: Bl. David Okelo and Jildo Irwa, young martyr catechists (of 16 and 12 years), killed at Paimol (Kalongo, North Uganda, +1918).
- 21/10: Bl. Laura Montoya y Upegui (1874-1949), a woman missionary from Colombia who worked among the indigenous people and a founder; she died at Medellín (Colombia).
- 23/10: St. John of Capestrano (1386-1456), Franciscan priest, missionary and successful preacher in various countries of central and oriental Europe. He worked for the freedom and unity of Christians.
- 24/10: St. Anthony M. Claret (1807-1870), a Spaniard, preacher of popular missions, founder, bishop of Santiago in Cuba. He died in exile in France.
- 24/10: Bl. Luigi Guanella (1842-1915), Italian priest, founder of two Institutes for the poor.
- 24/10: United Nations Day (organisation set up in 1945).
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”