Call and mission are connected

MESSAGE FROM POPE FRANCIS
FOR WORLD MISSION SUNDAY 2021

 

"It is impossible for us to remain silent about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

when we experience the power of God's love, when we recognize his fatherly presence in our personal and community life, then we cannot help but proclaim and pass on, what we saw and heard. The relationship of Jesus to his disciples and his humanity, which is revealed to us in the mystery of the Incarnation, in his Gospel and his Paschal mystery, show us how much God loves us and makes our joys and sorrows, our longings and fears his own ( see Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22). Everything about Christ reminds us that the world in which we live and its need for salvation are not alien to him; He also calls on us to feel that we are an active part of this program: "So go to the intersections of the streets and invite everyone you meet [...]!" (Mt 22.9). Nobody is a stranger, nobody can feel strange or distant about this compassionate love.

The experience of the apostles

The history of evangelization begins with a passionate search for the Lord, who calls and wants to enter into a friendly dialogue with everyone where he is (cf. Joh 15.12-17). The apostles are the first to tell us about it, remembering even the day and hour when they met him: "It was about the tenth hour" (Joh 1.39). The friendship with the Lord, to see him heal the sick, eat with sinners, feed the hungry, approach the excluded, touch the impure, identify with the needy, invite the Beatitudes and teach in a new way with authority - this leaves an indelible impression that can arouse astonishment and an open-hearted and informal joy that cannot be held back. This experience, as the prophet Jeremiah said, is the burning fire of his active presence in our hearts, which drives us to mission, although this is sometimes associated with sacrifice and misunderstanding (cf. 20: 7-9). Love is always in motion and sets us in motion to pass on the most beautiful message and source of hope: "We have found the Messiah" (Joh 1,41).

With Jesus we have seen, heard and experienced that things can also be different. Already today he has ushered in the future times, as he reminds us of a characteristic of our humanity that is very often forgotten: "We are created for the abundance that can only be achieved through love" (encyclical Fratelli tutti, 68). New times that awaken a faith capable of initiating initiatives and building communities, starting with men and women who learn to take on their own fragility and that of others by promoting fraternity and social friendship (cf. . ibid., 67). The ecclesial community always shows its beauty when it remembers with gratitude that the Lord loved us first (cf. 1 Joh 4.19). “The Lord's special love surprises us, and amazement by its very nature can neither be possessed nor compelled by us. […] Only in this way can the miracle of gratuitousness, gratuitous self-giving flourish. Missionary zeal, too, can never be attained by consideration or calculation. To put yourself "in the state of mission" is a reflection of gratitude «(Message to the Pontifical Mission Societies, May 21, 2020).

Times were not easy, however. The first Christians began their lives by faith in a hostile and difficult environment. Stories of exclusion and imprisonment were interwoven with internal and external resistance that seemed to contradict and even deny what they had seen and heard. But rather than depicting a difficulty or hurdle that could have caused them to withdraw or to close themselves off, this urged them to turn every disadvantage, resistance, and emergency into an opportunity for mission. Restrictions and obstacles also became preferred places to anoint everything and everyone with the Spirit of the Lord. Nothing and no one could remain unaffected by the liberating proclamation.

We find living testimony to all of this in the Acts of the Apostles, a book that the missionary disciples always have at hand. This book tells how the fragrance of the gospel spread when he came and awaken the joy only the Spirit can give us. The Acts of the Apostles teach us to hold fast to Christ in trials; thus we mature in the “conviction that God can act in every situation, even in the midst of apparent failures” and in the certainty “that fruit will certainly bear fruit (cf. Joh 15: 5) who offers himself up to God out of love and gives himself up to him "(Apostolic Letter Evangelii gaudium, 279).

So do we: the present moment in history is by no means easy. The pandemic situation has highlighted and aggravated the pain, loneliness, poverty and injustice that so many have already suffered; it has exposed our false securities and the fragmentation and polarization that are silently tearing us apart. The very weak and defenseless have experienced their own defenselessness and weakness even more. We have experienced discouragement, disillusionment, fatigue; the generalized bitterness that robs all hope could even seize our perception. We, however, "we proclaim [...] not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, but ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4.5). That is why we hear in our communities and in our families the word of life that reverberates in our hearts and tells us: "He is not here, he is risen" (Lk 24.6). It is a word of hope that breaks all determinism; It gives all who are touched by it the freedom and courage that are necessary to stand up and creatively seek all possible ways to live the mercy, the “sacramental” of God's closeness to us, who has no one on the roadside leaves lying. In this time of the pandemic, faced with the temptation to cover up and justify indifference and apathy in the name of appropriate social distancing is one Mission of Compassion urgently needed, which can make the necessary distance to a place of encounter, care and support. "What we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20), the mercy that we have been given becomes a point of reference for our credibility, which allows us to »regain our shared passion [to create] a cohesive community in solidarity, one in which we have time, commitment and Dedicates goods «(encyclical Fratelli tutti, 36). It is his word that redeems us every day and saves us from the excuses that lead us to shut ourselves up in an absolutely cowardly skepticism: “Everything is the same, nothing will change.” When asked: “Why should I forego my certainties, comforts and pleasures if I cannot see any significant result? "The answer is always the same:" Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death and is full of power. Jesus Christ really lives (cf. Apostolic Letter Evangelii gaudium, 275). He wants us to live too, to be brothers and sisters and able to receive this hope in us and pass it on. In the present situation, there is an urgent need for missionaries of hope who, with the anointing of the Lord as prophets, can remind us that no one can save himself alone.

Like the apostles and the first Christians, we too say with all our might: "It is impossible for us to remain silent about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4.20). Everything that we have received, everything that the Lord has gradually given us, he has given us so that we can use it and give it to others selflessly. How the apostles saw, heard and touched the salvation of Jesus (cf. 1 Joh 1: 1-4), today we can touch the suffering and glorified flesh of Christ as we go through each day and find the courage to share a hopeful future with all, that indubitable mark that springs from knowing that the Lord is with us. As Christians, we cannot keep the Lord to ourselves: the Church's evangelizing mission expresses her broad and public importance in transforming the world and caring for creation.

An invitation to each and every one of us

The theme of this year's World Mission Day "We cannot possibly remain silent about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20) is an invitation to each of us to “take care of it” and to make known what we have in our hearts. This mission is and always has been the identity of the Church: "She is there to evangelize" (Saint Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 14). Our faithful life is weakened, it loses prophecy and the ability to be amazed and thankful when it closes itself off in personal isolation or in small groups; because of its own dynamism, it demands an increasing openness that can approach and embrace everyone. The early Christians were far from giving in to the temptation to join an elite; they were drawn to the Lord and to the new life that he offered, namely to go to the peoples and testify to what they had seen and heard: the kingdom of God is at hand. They did so with the dedication, gratitude, and nobility of those who sow, knowing that others will enjoy the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices. That is why I like to think: "Even the weakest, the disadvantaged and the wounded can be missionaries [in their own way], for one must always allow the good to be communicated, even if it coexists with many weaknesses" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christ vivit, 239).

On World Mission Day, celebrated every year on the penultimate Sunday in October, we remember gratefully to all those who, through their life testimony, help us to renew the commitment we made in baptism to be open-hearted and joyful apostles of the gospel. We think especially of all those who have set out and left their homes and families so that the gospel could immediately and uncheckedly reach the places of peoples and cities where many people thirst for blessings.

When we look at their missionary testimony, it spurs us on to be courageous and to urge "the Lord of the harvest" to "send out workers for his harvest" (Lk 10.2). We recognize that the mission call is not a thing of the past or a romantic reminder of the past. Today Jesus needs hearts that are capable of living the vocation as a real love story that leads them to go to the periphery of the world and become messengers and instruments of compassion. And it's a call he makes to everyone, if not in the same way. Let us remember that there are peripheries near us, in the center of a city or in our own family. There is also an aspect of the universal openness of love that is not geographical but existential. Always, but especially in these times of the pandemic, it is important to increase our daily ability to expand our circle and to reach those who I do not see directly as part of "my world of interest", although they are close to me (cf. Encyclical Fratelli tutti, 97). To live the mission means to get involved, to maintain the same attitude as Christ Jesus and to believe with him that the person next to me is also my brother or sister. May the compassionate love of Jesus Christ shake our hearts too and make us all missionary disciples.

May Mary, the first missionary disciple, let grow in all the baptized the desire to be salt and light in our countries (cf. Mt 5,13-14).

Rome, Saint John Lateran, January 6th, 2021, Solemn Epiphany.

 

FRANCIS