John Paul II's Message for World Mission Sunday October 23, 2005

John Paul II signed the document Feb. 22, 2005.

* * *

Mission: Bread Broken for the Life of the World

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. World Mission Sunday, in this year dedicated to the Eucharist, helps us to better understand the "Eucharistic" sense of our life as we relive the emotion of the Upper Room when, on the eve of his Passion, Jesus offered himself to the world: "on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).

In my recent Apostolic Letter "Mane Nobiscum Domine" I invited you to contemplate Jesus in the "breaking of the bread" offered for the whole of humanity. Following his example we too are called to offer our life for our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need. The Eucharist bears the "mark of universality" and prefigures in a sacramental way the time when "all who share one human nature, regenerated in Christ through the Holy Spirit and beholding the glory of God, will be able to say with one accord: 'Our Father'" ("Ad Gentes," 7). In this way, while the Eucharist helps us to understand more fully the significance of mission, it leads every individual believer, the missionary in particular, to be "bread, broken for the life of the world." Humanity has need of Christ "broken bread."

2. In our day human society appears to be shrouded in dark shadows while it is shaken by tragic events and shattered by catastrophic natural disasters. Nevertheless, as "on the night he was handed over" (1 Corinthians 11:23), also today Jesus "breaks the bread" (cf Matthew 26:26) for us in our Eucharistic celebrations and offers himself under the sacramental sign of his love for all mankind. This is why I underlined that "the Eucharist is not merely an _expression of communion in the Church's life; it is also a project of solidarity for all of humanity" ("Mane Nobiscum Domine," 27); it is "bread from heaven" which gives eternal life (cf John 6: 33) and opens the human heart to a great hope.

Present in the Eucharist, the same Redeemer who saw the needy crowds and was filled with compassion "because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36), continues through the centuries to show compassion for humanity poor and suffering. And it is in his name that pastoral workers and missionaries travel unexplored paths to carry the "bread" of salvation to all. They are spurred on by the knowledge that, united with Christ "center not just of the history of the Church, but also the history of humanity (cf. Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:15-20)" ("Mane Nobiscum Domine," 6), it is possible to meet the deepest longings of the human heart. Jesus alone can satisfy humanity's hunger for love and thirst for justice; He alone makes it possible for every human person to share in eternal life: " I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever" (John 6:51). The Church, one with Christ, becomes "broken bread."

3. When the ecclesial Community celebrates the Eucharist, especially on Sunday the Day of the Lord, it experiences in the light of the faith the value of the encounter with the Risen Christ and is ever more aware that the Sacrifice of the Eucharist is "of many" (Matthew 26:28). We who nourish ourselves with the Body and Blood of the crucified and risen Lord, cannot keep this "gift" to ourselves; on the contrary we must share it. Passionate love for Christ leads to courageous proclamation of Christ; proclamation which, with martyrdom, becomes a supreme offering of love for God and for mankind. The Eucharist leads us to be generous evangelizers, actively committed to building a more just and fraternal world.

I sincerely hope the Year of the Eucharist will inspire every Christian community to respond with "fraternal solicitude to some of the many forms of poverty present in our world" ("Mane Nobiscum Domine," 28), because "by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. John 13:35; Matthew 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged" ("Mane Nobiscum Domine," 28). Missionaries, "bread broken" for the life of the world.

4. Still today Christ urges his disciples: "Give them some food yourselves" (Matthew 14:16). In his name missionaries all over the world proclaim and witness to the Gospel. Through their efforts there resound once again the words of the Redeemer: "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst" (John 6:35); they too become "bread broken" for their brothers, some even to the point of sacrificing their lives. How many missionary martyrs in our day! May their example draw numerous young men and women to tread the path of heroic fidelity to Christ! The Church has need of men and women willing to consecrate themselves wholly to the great cause of the Gospel.

World Mission Sunday is an opportune occasion to increase our awareness of the urgent necessity to participate in the evangelizing mission undertaken by the local Communities and many Church organizations, in particular the Pontifical Mission Societies and the Missionary Institutes. This mission requires the support not only of prayer and sacrifice, but also of concrete material offerings. I take this opportunity to recall once again the valuable service rendered by the Pontifical Mission Societies, and I ask you all to support them generously with spiritual and material cooperation.

May the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, help us relive the experience of the Upper Room so that our ecclesial Communities may become authentically "Catholic"; that is Communities where "missionary spirituality" which is "intimate communion with Christ" ("Redemptoris Missio," 88), is closely related to "eucharistic spirituality" of which the model is Mary, the "woman of the Eucharist" ("Ecclesia de Eucharistia," 53); Communities always open to the voice of the Spirit and to the needs of humanity, Communities where believers, missionaries in particular, do not hesitate to offer themselves as "bread, broken for the life of the world."

To all I impart my Apostolic Blessing!

From the Vatican, February 22, 2005, Feast of the Chair of Peter

IOANNES PAULUS II