By Susan Gately - 20 October, 2013
The task of mission belongs to each baptised person, all Christian communities, Pope Francis has written in his message for World Mission Sunday.
God loves us and wants to enter into a relationship with us. This gift of faith is not something we can keep for ourselves, it must be shared, he states.
Missionary outreach is “a sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community”. People are ready to leave aside their own concerns, to bring faith to the “peripheries” .
“Missionary spirit is not only about geographical territories, but about peoples, cultures and individuals, because the ‘boundaries’ of faith not only cross places and human traditions, but the heart of each man and each woman,” the Pontiff comments.
Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, Jesus’ mandate to be his “witnesses”.
“We are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel,” the Pope writes.
But Pope Francis also warns that one cannot announce Christ without the Church. “Evangelisation is not an isolated individual or private act; it is always ecclesial.”
Nowadays, hewrites, with so much movement of people for work or other reasons, parishes often don’t know those who live permanently or temporarily in the area.
Growing numbers of people are without or indifferent to faith, and even baptised people can end up making “lifestyle choices that lead them away from faith”. These people, and those who have not met Christ, are in need of a “new evangelisation”, Pope Francis writes.
Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith, he urges.
Mission is not about proselytising, the Pope continues, and the Church is not an NGO, but a “community of people, animated by the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ and want to share this experience .”
The Pope thanks missionaries, who have accepted God’s call and served the Gospel in different lands and cultures and he appeals to people who felt a call from God to respond to the Holy Spirit, “according to your state in life, and not to be afraid to be generous with the Lord.”
He says he is close in prayer to persecuted Christians, urging them to live Jesus’ exhortation “Be brave, I have overcome the world.”
Marking Mission Sunday today, a special a collection is taking place in all churches around the country and all over the world.
Last year Irish Catholics contributed more than €2 million to the special Mission Sunday collection which funded a range of projects in mission dioceses in Africa and Asia, including India, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Sudan.
Speaking ahead of Mission Sunday, Bishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Killaloe thanked all those who had generously supported the Church’s missionaries over the years notwithstanding the “harsh economic climate at home”.
He appealed to people to continue to support the Church’s missionaries and paid tribute to the 1,500 Irish born Catholic missionaries working at home and abroad.
“World Mission Sunday provides an opportunity to give thanks for them and the work they have done and continue to do. It is also an opportunity for us to recommit ourselves to the Church’s missionary activity, through prayer, sacrifice and financial help.”
RTÉ will broadcast a special Mission Sunday at 11.00am today. The theme for World Mission Sunday in Ireland for 2013 is ‘Growing in Faith’.