This year World Mission Sunday will be celebrated on 24 October. The theme the Holy Father has chosen this year is: ‘We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). A synthesis of his message.
In his message, Pope Francis says: “Once we experience the power of God’s love, we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have seen and heard.… Everything about Christ reminds us that he knows well our world and its need for redemption, and calls us to become actively engaged in this mission: ‘Go therefore to the highways and byways, and invite everyone you find’ (Mt 22:9).”
The Pope points out: “The history of evangelisation began with the Lord’s own passionate desire to call and enter into friendly dialogue with everyone… Experiencing the Lord’s friendship, watching him cure the sick, dine with sinners, feed the hungry, draw near to the outcast, touch the unclean, identify with the needy, propose the Beatitudes and teach in a new and authoritative way, left an indelible mark on them, awakening amazement, expansive joy and a profound sense of gratitude.”
The Holy Father said that “With Jesus, we too have seen, heard and experienced that thing can be different. Even now, he has inaugurated future times, reminding us of an often forgotten dimension of our humanity, namely, that ‘we were created for a fulfilment that can only be found in love’ (Fratelli Tutti, 68). A future that awakens a faith capable of inspiring new initiatives and shaping communities of men and women who, by learning to accept their own frailty and that of others, promote fraternity and social friendship (cf. ibid., 67).”
The Pope adds: “The ecclesial community reveals its splendour whenever it recalls with gratitude that the Lord loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19). ‘The loving predilection of the Lord surprises us, and surprise by its very nature cannot be owned or imposed by us… Only in this way can the miracle of gratuitousness, the gratuitous gift of self, blossom. Nor can missionary fervour ever be obtained as a result of reasoning or calculation. To be “in a state of mission” is a reflection of gratitude’ (Message to the Pontifical Mission Societies/Missio, 21 May 2020).”
“Even so, things were not always easy. The first Christians began the life of faith amid hostility and hardship. Experiences of marginalisation and imprisonment combined with internal and external struggles that seemed to contradict and even negate what they had seen and heard. Yet, rather than a difficulty or an obstacle leading them to step back or close in on themselves, those experiences impelled them to turn problems, conflicts and difficulties into opportunities for mission. Limitations and obstacles became a privileged occasion for anointing everything and everyone with the Spirit of the Lord. Nothing and no one was to be excluded from the message of liberation.”
The pope said that: “The pandemic has brought to the fore and amplified the pain, the solitude, the poverty and the injustices experienced by so many people. It has unmasked our false sense of security and revealed the brokenness and polarization quietly growing in our midst…”
“There is a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing, there is urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion. ‘What we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20), the mercy we have experienced, can thus become a point of reference and a source of credibility, enabling us to recover a shared passion for building ‘a community of belonging and solidarity worthy of our time, our energy and our resources’ (Fratelli Tutti, 36).”
“Like the Apostles and the first Christians, we too can say with complete conviction: ‘We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). Everything we have received from the Lord is meant to be put to good use and freely shared with others. Just as the Apostles saw, heard and touched the saving power of Jesus (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4), we too can daily touch the sorrowful and glorious flesh of Christ. There we can find the courage to share with everyone we meet a destiny of hope, the sure knowledge that the Lord is ever at our side. As Christians, we cannot keep the Lord to ourselves: the Church’s evangelising mission finds outward fulfilment in the transformation of our world and in the care of creation.
“The theme of this year’s World Mission Day – ‘We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20), is a summons to each of us to ‘own’ and to bring to others what we bear in our hearts… Our life of faith grows weak, loses its prophetic power and its ability to awaken amazement and gratitude when we become isolated and withdraw into little groups. By its very nature, the life of faith calls for a growing openness to embracing everyone, everywhere.”
Pope Francis concludes: “On World Mission Day, we 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… Contemplating their missionary witness, we are inspired to be courageous ourselves and to beg ‘the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest’ (Lk 10:2). We know that the call to mission is not a thing of the past, or a romantic leftover from earlier times.”
“Today too Jesus needs hearts capable of experiencing vocation as a true love story that urges them to go forth to the peripheries of our world as messengers and agents of compassion. He addresses this call to everyone, and in different ways. We can think of the peripheries all around us, in the heart of our cities or our own families.”
“Universal openness to love has a dimension that is not geographical but existential. Always, but especially in these times of pandemic, it is important to grow in our daily ability to widen our circle, to reach out to others who, albeit physically close to us, are not immediately part of our ‘circle of interests’ (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 97). 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.”