This Sunday is World Mission Sunday – celebrated worldwide on the third Sunday of October (which is why October is also celebrated as Mission Month), so we can pray and raise funds for missions and missionaries around the world and for the poor and emerging Church.
This year's theme is in harmony with the Jubilee Year: "Let us be Merciful" and allows us to ask some questions about what mercy has to do with our missionary activity. How is mercy as a pastoral attitude a sign of God in our world? How can our Christian communities become the “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference”?
According to the animation kit that was put out by the Pontifical Mission Societies of Canada
, written by Fr. André Gagnon, S.J. National Director of the PMS of French Canada and Fr. Alex Osei, C.S.Sp. National Director of the PMS of English Canada, the Church is essentially a missionary extension of God’s mercy. For us who believe in Jesus Christ, our mission is to be the signs of God’s presence and closeness with all people in today’s world. What we receive during the Year of Mercy, we must share with our brothers and sisters so they too may experience God’s love and tenderness, through comfort, forgiveness and hope.
The resource continues:
"A few days after his election to St. Peter’s pulpit, Pope Francis assured that mercy changes everything: “feeling mercy changes everything. This is the best thing that we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to properly understand this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient....” (Angelus, March 17, 2013). Moreover, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father developed his thoughts on “mercy”. It appears like a chorus that must be repeated together and offered to the world. Along with Pope Francis, we acknowledge that Canadian society and in particular the Church, has a “great need of mercy today, and it is important that the lay faithful experience it and bring it into different social environments. Move forward! We are living in the age of mercy; this is the age of mercy.” (Angelus, January 11, 2015)
Everything comes from God’s heart. To be merciful like God the Father, is to become a font of love and tenderness for every person. Mercy shows the paternity of the Father, who becomes sad when his children suffer and sin. God suffers with us, because of our estrangement and our growing indifference. In a great movement of compassion and love, he shows us his “mercy” and he asks us to do the same. Through the priest’s sacerdotal ministry, God forgives us and gives us back our rightful place as sons and daughters. This is what Jesus suggested to us during his life and asks us to do with our brothers and sisters: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”. (Lk 6:36)
Despite the many violent and hateful events that we experience and endure, we want to promote and experience peace and justice. Mercy is the first step towards that peace and justice. It is the first essential step for a true fraternity. But we must go further than vain wishes and really take that path to be agents of mercy in each “outskirt and frontier” of the world.
Let us be merciful here AND elsewhere: let us feed those who are starving; let us give something to drink to those who are thirsty; let us give clothes to those who are naked; let us welcome the stranger; let us provide our assistance and let us take care of the sick; let us visit the prisoners; let us respect and honor the dead (cf. Mt 25:31-46) Let us not forget to give advice to those who are doubtful; to teach the children; to warn the sinners; to give comfort to the afflicted; to forgive the trespasses; to be patient with the people who harm us and to pray for the living and the dead. God the Father asks us to be merciful and to experience it through joy: “the giver, in generosity… the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” (Rm 12:8)
I’ve spoken a lot about what it means to be a missionary Church. I think that St. John Paul II really reminded us that we have a call to holiness, but with Pope Francis, we are being reminded that we also have a universal call to mission.
Those are really the two sides of the coin. We are here on earth with one goal: to make it to Heaven. But we don’t go alone. We go together. So, holiness and mission.
This week, on the SLHour
, we are featuring John Michael Talbot
, who has a new album, The Inner Room
, based on the Sermon on the Mount, so I've been thinking about Matthew 5 and how we can live that missionary spirit right here, in our own backyards, in our own schools, workplaces and communities. Mission is not just something that happens somewhere far away. How are we missionaries right at home? This doesn’t mean that you have to be preaching incessantly all the time to everyone – that’ll just be annoying. But how do you share the joy of the Gospel every day in everything that you do, with everyone you meet? How does everything you do and say lead to Heaven and bring others to Heaven with you?
At the expense of pushing the "brand", I think that the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount gives us at least one practical and easy suggestion: Be salt and be light!
We've all been told that being salt has something to do with adding flavour and being a preservative. We've also been told that salt is what we use to melt the ice (for those of us in the north). But truly, the bottom line with salt is that there is nothing else on earth like it. Nothing tastes like salt and you only need a little bit in order to make a difference. It's the same with light. You only need a little bit. The difference between salt and light is that salt is hidden, whereas it's difficult to hide a light (that's why you don't put it under a bushel basket).
How do we share the joy of the Gospel? By being like nothing else on earth and making a little difference. This may be sitting with someone who's hurting when you'd rather get home or it means simply offering a smile to someone on the subway. It means being a calm presence during long meetings at work. It means listening and being present when someone speaks to you. It means starting your day offering that day to God and ending the day by giving thanks for the blessings and asking for the Grace to be better tomorrow. It means knowing when to be hidden like salt and when to speak up and be seen, like light. It means having a sense that the little that we do, if we do it in the name of Jesus Christ, will make a difference. It means that everything we do, we do knowing that no matter what, only one thing matters, and that is getting to Heaven. The second thing that matters is that we bring others with us. That's being salt and being light.
Next Sunday, I am going to be in Kansas City at the National Religious Vocation Conference
annual convention from where I will host a LIVE web-forum
with six panelists who are discerning and/or living out their call to religious vocation. For some, that missionary call is more specific and so we are going to be exploring those questions. I hope that you can join us at NRVC.net
. You'll also be able to participate and send your questions via Facebook
. Maybe we can also speak about what it's like living those calls to holiness and mission in our day-to-day lives as lay people.
This Sunday and as we approach the end of the month, let’s not just pray for missionaries and for missions as if it was only for religious people in faraway places; let’s pray for ourselves, for an awareness of our mission on earth - and then let's go and do it.
Read Pope Francis' message for the 2016 World Mission Sunday.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org