By Fr. Sean McEwen, SDB
Last Sunday, the Church celebrated the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. In his message for this celebration, the Holy Father presented the theme of “Towards an ever wider 'We.'” It was a message meant to indicate a “clear horizon for our common journey in this world.” Since the Holy Spirit enables us to embrace everyone by unifying differences, we are called, as were the disciples, to be all-inclusive in carrying out the Mission of the Church in proclaiming the Good News. Such a celebration and message serve as a very appropriate introduction to the month of October, the month that we will celebrate World Mission Sunday on the 24th of October.
Established in 1926 by Pope Pius XI, World Mission Sunday joins Catholics around the world into one community of faith and presents an opportunity for each of us to recommit ourselves to our common vocation (by virtue of our baptism), be missionaries, and proclaim Christ. Taken from the Acts of the Apostles, this year’s theme is, “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Noting that the history of evangelization began with the Lord’s own desire to call everyone, just as they are, it is clear to see why Pope Francis has encouraged us to reflect on an ever wider “We.” To know the Lord, to be in relationship with the Lord, should, as described by the prophet Jeremiah, naturally create a consuming awareness of the Lord’s presence in our hearts that impel us to mission.
As a result of this love in our hearts, being impelled to mission comes of course with its challenges, which requires one to cling firmly to Christ, much in the same way that the first Christians began their own lives of faith and evangelization. Pope Francis notes that the experiences they endured of “marginalization and imprisonment combined with internal and external struggles seemed to contradict and even negate what they had seen and heard,” while journeying with Christ. Yet all of the setbacks and difficulties they experienced became for them, opportunities for mission as they strived to turn these challenges into occasions to proclaim the Good News. Likewise, we too are asked to live as missionary disciples in this time of pandemic which has “brought to the fore and amplified the pain, the solitude, the poverty and the injustices experienced by so many and has unmasked our false sense of security and revealed the brokenness and polarization quietly growing in our midst.”
As can be expected, negativity grows during these times and this stifles hope, but Pope Francis reminds us that we have heard the words of Luke 24:6, “He is not here, but has risen.” In the same way that our Rector Major had chosen this year’s Strenna, “Moved by Hope,” the Holy Father is calling us to be “Missionaries of Hope,” embark on a mission of compassion, and “recover a passion for building a community of belonging and solidarity” in a time when many have become isolated. We are thus called to serve, each one in their own way bringing to others what we bear in our hearts. “I like to think that those who are most frail, limited, and troubled can be missionaries in their own way, for goodness can always be shared, even if it exists alongside many limitations,” the Pope proclaimed.
World Mission Day also provides us with an opportunity to “recall with gratitude all those men and women who by their testimony of life help us to renew our baptismal commitment to be generous and joyful apostles of the Gospel. Let us remember especially all those who resolutely set out, leaving home and family behind, to bring the Gospel to all those places and people a thirst for its saving message.” During this month of October, we are encouraged in each of our communities, to remember in our prayers, the ad gentes Missionaries that our province has generously offered the congregation, and the Church. Their work in the mission is strengthened and sustained by your prayers. As October is traditionally also a month dedicated to Our Lady, the first missionary disciple, perhaps communities will consider praying together the Rosary for the intentions of our SUE missionaries currently serving throughout the world.
Communities may also be interested in accessing a variety of online resources to celebrate World Mission Day during this month.
The full text of the Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For World Mission Day 2021 can be used as a meditation.
At the request of the Pontifical Missionary Union, a community of Trappist Nuns in Italy have prepared daily meditations on the Biblical Readings for mass for the missionary month of October, which can be assessed here.
Also, not to be overlooked are the Salesian resources for Salesian Mission Day that has as its theme: One Father One Family.
“To be on mission is to be willing to think as Christ does, to believe with him that those around us are also my brothers and sisters. May his compassionate love touch our hearts and make us all true missionary disciples.”
– Pope Francis