Our liturgical celebrations this weekend mark World Mission Sunday, an annual event in the life of the Church. But in one sense, every Sunday is a “mission Sunday.” At the end of each Mass, we are told to go and serve the Lord.
This is one of the oldest works of the Church: to go out and proclaim the Good News, in word and deed. What changes is only the context. We have exchanged our sandals and walking sticks for smart phones and social media. The false gods we battle have also changed — instead of the pantheons of the Greeks and Romans, we now have the gods of consumerism, mass entertainment, an aggressive secularism and over-weaning sense of personal liberty.
Still, the message and the motive remain the same. As Pope Francis says in his Message for World Mission Sunday 2013, “Let us bring to the world, through our witness, with love, the hope given by faith!”
And so, we recall this mission today. But there is an important distinction to make: one often overlooked in the hothouse atmosphere of contemporary public debate. To proclaim God’s love is not to force it on anyone; it is, as Pope John Paul II was fond of saying, “to propose, not impose.”
Again, the words of Francis help here:
“The Church’s missionary spirit is not about proselytizing, but the testimony of a life that illuminates the path, which brings hope and love. The Church – I repeat once again – is not a relief organization, an enterprise or 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 of deep joy, the message of salvation that the Lord gave us. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in this path.”
Today’s mission territory has numerous faces. Believe it or not, there are still many parts of the world — including in Canada — where the Good News is very much “news” in the literal sense. In some places, just being Christian is an act of extreme bravery, exposing one to danger, even death. In others, a different type of courage is needed: that needed to face ridicule, suspicion or being ostracized by others.
Canada’s “mission territories” are aided financially by Catholics across the country through Catholic Missions in Canada. There are also global missions of the Church, helped financially through collections at Sunday Mass this weekend.
But there is also the mission territory we live in each day in our communities, our work places and homes. In such places lives animated by the joy inspired by our faith are the most powerful form of proclamation we can muster. At the same time, let’s not be afraid to tell those we meet about the source of this joy. It is, after all, our “pearl of great price.”
-Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director