Dear Rev. Fathers, Sisters, Brothers and lay faithful,
Witness of Mercy
The Catholic Church dedicates the month of October to the Christian mission and to remind us of our obligation to live and spread our Christian Faith. In particular, we are invited by our beloved Pope Francis to spend a few moments to reflect on our Christian commitment of carrying forward the mission Christ in our lives.
Faith and Mission
We know very well that our faith is a precious gift of God (Cf. 2 Pet 1:1). Paul would add that it is a privileged gift of God (Phil 1:29). Indeed, the intrinsic nature of Christian faith is to live our faith. The Greek term for faith is: pistis which carries the notion of confidence, certainty, trust, and assurance in the object of faith. However it does not refer abstractly to the noun faith, but to the act of believing and this act reflects in our witness to faith. The gift of faith is rooted in one’s saving faith in Christ and the trust and confidence in God that invites us to live boldly for Him and manifest that faith in His mighty ways. “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). This is the missionary command of Jesus to his disciples. Having been strengthened their faith in Jesus, the Saviour, they set forth to proclaim the Gospel. In fact, faith begets faith through proclamation. Paul would emphatically say: “faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).
We cannot forget the three basic thrusts laid by Jesus upon his disciples: to be with him; to heal the sick (from demonic powers) and to preach the Good News (Mk 3:14-15). The last two acts are missionary activities which are essential for any believer of Christ. As the Ad Gentes (Vat II) notes “the mission of the Church, therefore, is fulfilled by that activity which makes her, obeying the command of Christ (AG 5). Therefore our existence as Christ’s disciples demand us to be missionary in spirit and action. No Christian lives for himself/herself but also for others. This missionary life belongs not to solely a group of religious or priests, but to every believer. This leads us to understand what it means be a Christian missionary: a member of believing Christian community, who lives out his/her faith by performing ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development.
Witness to Christ
People in general assume that the word mission denotes the efforts to convert others from one religion to another and hence they blame easily the Christian missionaries in that respect and so, ‘anti-conversion bill’ is drawn and in opposite direction, ‘gar vapsi’ (brought back home)is brought forth. We need to manifest very clearly our stand of the mission like that of St. Mother Teresa: conversion of heart for the betterment of humanity is basically intended. When the Risen Lord gave his disciples the missionary command he told them: to be his witnesses by proclaiming to all the nations repentance and forgiveness of sins (cf. Lk 24: 47-49). It is a mission of reconciliation in the world torn by divisions of language, culture, caste, political and social evils. At this juncture it is worthwhile to remember the directions of Ad Gentes that, in order that we may be able to bear more fruitful witness to Christ we esteem, love and promote the cultural and social life; being familiar with the national and social traditions. By this we reverently lay the seed of the Word which is hidden in every human person. This is a life of Christian charity, which is truly extended to all, without distinction of race, creed, or social condition: it looks for neither gain nor gratitude.
The Council fathers propose to us that the “Christ’s disciples render to others true witness of Christ by their works of development and progress; they are not seeking a mere material progress and prosperity for men, but are promoting their dignity and brotherly union, teaching those religious and moral truths which Christ illumined with His light; and in this way, they are gradually opening up a fuller approach to God” (Ad 12). We are to animate our faithful to extend their hearts and hands to the needy and to the suffering, out of Christian spirit, but reflecting human respect. This is the existential mission; all faithful are called to offer their very existence to the humanity in their faith in Christ. Every believer, through their search for sanctity, can and are expected to be Christ’s sacrament to the suffering, persecuted and oppressed. This is because by baptism every one of us, not only gifted by faith, but also sent to proclaim good news of merciful Jesus.
Witness of Mercy
The above reflection leads us to the missionary invitation given by our beloved Pope Francis for the World Mission day (dated: 15 May 2016). As we are approaching the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy the Holy Father invites us to consider the mission ad gentes as a great, immense work of mercy, both spiritual and material. He reminds us that ‘announcing the Mercy of God is beating heart of the Gospel’ (MisericordiaeVultus, 12) and the mission of every faithful is to proclaim mercy in every corner of the world, reaching every person, young or old. Witness to mercy would demand of us spiritual, psychological and material care of the poor and the needy, sick and the destitute; our involvement to bring justice to the unjust people and society and to be conscious of our duties of our commitments. Mere doling out our material things or carrying out our daily agenda does not satisfy our witnessing to mercy. The axis of our Christian mission is to be our personal credibility and then only our missionary endeavors will be fruitful.
As we are benefitting very much from the missionary generosity of millions of faithful all over the world, we should encourage our faithful to pray for the missionaries who are faced with several severe hardships from the hard-hearted people in their ministry and also make generous material contributions for the proclamation of the Gospel. It is the missionary cooperation encouraged by St. Paul and lived by the early Christians communities (2 Cor 16:1-4).
May the Lord of the Universe bless you all and become effective missionaries in your own life situations!