In his message for World Mission Day, Pope Francis said that the Church needs to spread the Gospel, caring for the spiritual wounds of people who desperately need the Good News of Jesus Christ.
“The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Pope Francis said June 4.
“Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere.”
The Pope’s message was published by the Vatican on June 4, the Solemnity of Pentecost; a few months ahead of the Church’s celebration of World Mission Day, which will take place October 22, 2017.
“Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel,” the Pope continued, such as those of recent martyrs and those for whom it is difficult to even go to Mass or receive the Eucharist.
The Pope mentioned, for example, “the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed.”
“I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda,” he said also, “where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?’ as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord.”
“For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage.”
In his message, Francis pointed out that the Church is missionary by nature, “otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away.”
Because of this, we must ask ourselves certain questions about our responsibility as Christians and believers, especially in a world “marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent.”
The questions the Pope proposed we ask ourselves are: “What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?”
One essential, Francis said, is that Church’s mission in the world be constantly invigorated by a spirituality of “exodus” and “pilgrimage;” that we are called to go forth into the world, past our own comfort zones, in order to reach people on the peripheries.
“The Church’s mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice,” he explained.
“The Church’s mission inspires a sense of constant exile, to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Taking part in the missionary aspect of the Church reminds us that the Church isn’t our end goal in itself, he said, but an instrument for bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven.
And part of the Kingdom of Heaven is spreading the message of the Gospel of Christ, also called the “Good News,” he said, because it is filled with a contagious joy, the offer of a new life in Christ, who through the Holy Spirit becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life.
And it is this life that “sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love.”
God desires our “existential transformation,” the Pope continued, guided by the Holy Spirit, which finds expression in worship and in an imitation of Jesus.
Francis went on to explain what this means for the mission of the Church, which he said is not about spreading a “religious ideology” or a “lofty ethical teaching.”
Instead, “through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the Kairos, the favorable time of salvation.”
“Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the risen Jesus becomes our contemporary, so that those who welcome him with faith and love can experience the transforming power of his Spirit, who makes humanity and creation fruitful, even as the rain does with the earth.”
Quoting from the words of Benedict XVI in “Deus Caritas Est,” Francis said that Christianity is an encounter with a Person, not an “ethical choice or lofty idea.”
And through the Sacraments of the Church, this Person “continually offers himself and constantly invites those who receive him with humble and religious faith to share his life by an effective participation in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection.”
The Pope mentioned the important role of both young people and the Pontifical Mission Societies in serving humanity “with courage and enthusiasm.”
In the Pontifical Mission Societies, “thanks to a profound missionary spirituality, nurtured daily, and a constant commitment to raising missionary awareness and enthusiasm, young people, adults, families, priests, bishops and men and women religious work to develop a missionary heart in everyone,” he said.
The celebration of World Mission Day in October, promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, “is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.”
Finally, Francis said, in carrying out her mission, the Church must draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization.
“Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of life in the depths of her humble faith. May the Virgin Mother help us to say our own ‘yes,’ conscious of the urgent need to make the Good News of Jesus resound in our time,” he concluded.
“May she obtain for us renewed zeal in bringing to everyone the Good News of the life that is victorious over death. May she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman.”