World Mission Day is celebrated by Catholics every year to build a better life for all God’s people, to live dignified and fulfilling life, and a day on which we reflect on spreading the Gospel and Christ’s charity around the world. This year World Mission Day is Sunday 22 October 2017.
Mission is at the Heart of our Christian Faith
Fr Bernard Espiritu, National Director MissioNZ. Photo: Supplied
Pope Francis calls our attention to celebrate Mission Sunday as a day we gather around the person of Jesus, the ‘very first and greatest evangeliser’ as Pope Paul VI called him. It is a day to reflect and give thanks for the very mission Jesus called us to participate in – to share the transformative power of the Gospel. It is filled with contagious joy for it offers new life.
When I was growing up as a little boy in the Philippines, a religious brother who would visit our village, took pictures of children who oftentimes were filthy looking as if they were all abandoned. He would send those pictures to his benefactors overseas and hoped to get some money for his missionary work. It dawned on me one day, it was a way to catch the sympathy of people to move them to give a financial contribution. I also get such pictures from missionaries who contact me.
Today, I would return those kinds of pictures to their senders and ask them:
Does your work with these people really keep them so devoid of joy?
If your work with people is truly Christ-centred, should it not bring them joy?
Does your missionary work make any difference in their lives?
Surely enough, the next pictures they send me demonstrate joy.
We may not eliminate poverty at its roots. Even Jesus said, ‘the poor will always be with you’ (Mark 14:7). But the challenge is: we make a difference. Like St Teresa of Calcutta, our missionary work may be just like a drop in the ocean; but she herself taught us: ‘In life, we are not called to be successful, we are rather called to be faithful’.
Yes, we are called to be faithful to the heart of our Christian vocation – missionaries all are we. And may the Good News – the Gospel – we proclaim bring joy to us and to all who benefit from our prayers and generosity.
This year, MissioNZ focuses on missionaries who work to make a difference in the life of the poor through the health services done in many parishes in Africa and Asia. An example is the story of Sr Mary Gorreti of the Daughters of Mary, a local Ugandan congregation of religious Sisters. (Go online to YouTube for a story about her – type MISSIO NZ in the search engine). She is the religious sister holding a baby in our Mission Sunday 2017 poster. Sr Mary Gorreti dedicates her life and expertise to make a difference in the life of mothers and their babies in Bujuni, Uganda. Her faithful work as a missionary, and her hopes and dreams spur her on to reach out and give life. ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (Jn3:16).
MissioNZ did well last year with generous contributions received. Many $10 and $20 donations when joined with a gift of $100,000 amounted to more than $662,000. A big part of our Mission Collection for the fiscal year 2016‒2017 went to countries like Central Africa, which was heavily affected by the unjust civil wars. One thing that caught my attention is the work of missionaries in that country who help rehabilitate 10-year-old children who were recruited and made to work as ‘soldiers’ who killed; and of missionaries who help to rehabilitate children whose traumatic experiences range from rape to seeing their parents executed before their very eyes.
Your gift from the heart, no matter what amount, makes a difference. It allows these children regain the Joy of the Gospel. You help God to create miracles in people’s lives! Believe me – your prayers, life-witness, and your gifts – all make part of your being a missionary-disciple of Jesus. An authentic reason to give thanks this Mission Sunday.
‘May Mary intercede for us that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman’. May you who read these lines be ever blessed in whatever you do, for this is part of your mission. Be grateful to God for your life. Celebrate the joy of your being a missionary this Mission Sunday. Peace be with you!
Fr Bernard Espiritu svd is National Director Pontifical Mission Societies NZ – MissionNZ.
“Mission is at the heart of the Christian Faith” ‒ read Pope Francis’ message for World Mission Day 2017 online at: tinyurl.com/Mission-Sunday
Published in WelCom October 2017