Sunday, October 21, 2012

World Mission Sunday: we are called to be missionaries

World Mission Sunday 2012
It's no coincidence that during the Year of Faith World Mission Sunday, October 21, 2012, is the same day on which Pope Benedict XVI canonized six new saints, including the first North America Native Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. The others are Maria Anna Cope, Pedro Calungsod, Jacques Berthieu, Marie del Carmen, Giovanni Battista Piarmarta and Marie Scheffer.

Saints to put it simply are people of faith who have believed in Christ and spoken that belief, not always with words, but more so through their lives and actions. Saints are true missionaries, first to themselves and then to others. The Year of Faith is a loving reminder to us all to evangelize because we are called to do so by our baptism. We are asked to build the common good and a culture of life and love by spreading the Gospel message of hope and truth. Sometimes this involves leaving our home and country, but in most cases it means that we are to be missionaries, that is to be witnesses for the faith, wherever we are.

Our pastor gave a personal and touching example of this in his homily. He said that when he was studying in the seminary in his native African country of Kenya, a family with four children from Vancouver, British Columbia, helped to financially sponsor his education. Today because there are not enough priestly ordinations in the Archdiocese of Toronto he is happily serving our community. He said he's grateful to God and to a Canadian family that today he's a priest and is able to administer the sacraments to the faithful. This wonderful story of faith is just some of what can be accomplished if we take World Mission Sunday to heart. No more appropriate message could be used today that the one Pope Benedict gave to the Committee of the Pontifical Mission Societies, on May 21, 2010. Here's that insightful address:

... "It is a weighty mission, that of evangelization, especially in our time in which humanity suffers from a certain lack of reflection and wisdom and a humanism is spreading that excludes God. For this reason it is even more urgent and necessary to illuminate new problems that arise with the light of the Gospel that does not change. In fact, we are convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ, faithful witness of the Father's love, 'by his death and Resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity.' At the beginning of my ministry as the Successor of the Apostle Peter I strongly affirmed: 'the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.... 

"There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him.' Preaching the Gospel is an invaluable service that the Church can offer to the whole of humanity that journeys through history. You who come from Dioceses across the world are an eloquent and living sign of the catholicity of the Church, which finds expression in the universal breath of the apostolic mission, 'to the end of the earth', 'to the close of the age', so that no people nor environment may be deprived of the light and grace of Christ. This is the significance, the historical trajectory, the mission and hope of the Church.

"The mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples entails a critical judgment on the worldwide transformations that are now substantially changing humanity's culture. The Church present and active on the geographical and anthropological frontiers bears a message that has been passed down through history, in which she proclaims inalienable human values, with the proclamation and witness of God's saving plan made visible and operative in Christ. Preaching the Gospel is the call of God's children to freedom, to the construction of an ever more just and solidary society, and to our preparation for eternal life. Whoever participates in Christ's mission must inevitably face tribulation, conflict and suffering, because they will come up against the resistance and the powers of this world.
 And we, like the Apostle Paul, have no arms but the word of Christ and of his Cross. 

"The mission ad gentes asks the Church and her missionaries to accept the consequences of their ministry: evangelical poverty, which confers on them the freedom to preach the Gospel with courage and openness; non-violence, by which they respond to evil with good; willingness to give their life for Christ's name and for love of mankind.

"Just as the Apostle Paul showed the authenticity of his apostolate through the persecutions, wounds and harassment he endured, so also is persecution the proof of the authenticity of our own apostolic mission. But it is important to remember that the Gospel 'takes shape in human minds and hearts and extends through history. In all this it is the Holy Spirit who gives life', and that the Church and her missionaries have been empowered by the Spirit to fulfil the mission entrusted to them. It is the Holy Spirit who unites and preserves the Church, giving her strength to grow, filling Christ's disciples with an overflowing wealth of charisms. And it is from the Holy Spirit that the Church receives the authority of the apostolic proclamation and ministry. 

"Therefore, I wish to strongly reiterate what I have already said in regard to development, that is, that evangelization needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that the conversion of the world to Christ is not brought about by us, but given to us. The celebration of the Year for Priests has truly helped us to be more aware that missionary work requires an ever increasingly profound union with the One who God the Father sent for the salvation of all. It is a call to participation in that 'new way of life' which the Lord Jesus inaugurated and which the Apostles made their own."

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