OCT 21: WORLD MISSION SUNDAY – 2018
A room-service waiter at a Marriott hotel learned that the sister of a guest had just died. The waiter, named Charles, bought a sympathy card, had hotel staff members sign it, and gave it to the distraught guest with a piece of hot apple pie.
"Mr. Marriott," the guest later wrote to the president of Marriott Hotels, "I'll never meet you. And I don't need to meet you. Because I met Charles. I know what you stand for. I want to assure you that as long as I live, I will stay at your hotels. And I will tell my friends to stay at your hotels."
Today is world mission Sunday. A Sunday dedicated to reminding us of our mission to preach the gospel every day. Like Charles who conveyed the message of hospitality and sympathy through his kind action we are also called to present the Gospel before others. We may be the only gospel others may ever get to read in their life.
This annual observance was instituted 92 years ago in 1926 by a Papal decree issued by Pope Pius XI. Every year since then, the universal Church has dedicated the month of October to reflection on and prayer for the missions. This annual celebration gives us a chance to reflect on the importance of mission work for the life of the Church. It reminds us that we are one with the Church around the world and that we are all committed to carrying on the mission of Christ, however different our situations may be. The greatest missionary challenge that we face at home is a secular and consumerist culture in which God is not important, moral values are relative and institutional religions are deemed unnecessary.
Pope Benedict encouraged the sending of missionaries from Church communities which have a large number of vocations to serve those communities of the West which experience a shortage of vocations. In 2009, the Pope clarified that the “the goal of the Church’s mission is to illumine all peoples with the light of the Gospel as they journey through history towards God.”
The Church, according to Vatican Council II, is “missionary” in her very nature because her founder, Jesus Christ, was the first missionary. God the Father sent God the Son into the world with a message. This message, called the Gospel or the “Good News,” is explicitly stated in John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die, but have eternal life.” St. Paul writes to Timothy about the Church’s mission: “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4). Thus, the evangelizing mission of the Church is essentially the announcement of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation as these are revealed to mankind through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Gospels show us how Jesus demonstrated this all-embracing and unconditional love of God by his life, suffering, death, and Resurrection.
Jesus, the first missionary, made a permanent arrangement for inviting all men throughout the ages to share God’s love and salvation: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19). This is why the Council Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared that the Church of Christ “is missionary in its origin and nature.” Hence, it follows that the mission of the Church is the mission of every member of the Church, and is not reserved for the priests, the religious, and the active missionaries alone. Thus, every Christian is a missionary with a message to share — the message of God’s love, liberation, and eternal salvation.
There is a striking story about one remote area in western Sudan. Expatriate missionaries, especially priests, Brothers and Sisters, had labored there for many years with few visible results. Then expatriate lay missionaries — married and single — came to that area and soon many Sudanese people became Catholics. A Sudanese elder explained: “When we saw the priests and Sisters living separately and alone we didn’t want to be like them. But when we saw Catholic families — men, women and children — living happily together, we wanted to be like them.”
The most powerful means of fulfilling this goal is by living a truly Christian life — a life filled with love, mercy, kindness, compassion and a forgiving spirit. Mr. Gandhi used to say: “My life is my message.” He often challenged the Christian missionaries to observe the “apostolate of the rose.” A rose doesn’t preach. It simply radiates its fragrance and attracts everyone to it by its irresistible beauty. Hence, the most important thing is not the Gospel we preach, but the life we live. This is how the early Christians evangelized. Their Gentile neighbors used to say: “See how these Christians love one another.” The Christ they recognized and accepted was the Christ who lived in each Christian.
Prayer is the second means of missionary work. Jesus said: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Therefore, prayer is necessary for anyone who wishes to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. In his message for World Mission Sunday, 2004, Pope St. John Paul II stressed the fact that the Holy Spirit would help us to become witnesses of Christ only in an atmosphere of prayer. Since missionaries are weak human beings and since witnessing to Christ through life is not easy, we need to support them by our prayers.
Hence, on this Mission Sunday, let us learn to appreciate our missionary obligation and support the Church’s missionary activities by leading transparent Christian lives, by fervent prayers, and by generous donations.