Pope's Message for World Mission
"As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2011- Here is a
translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Mission Sunday, which will be
observed Oct. 23. The message, titled "As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You"
(John 20:21), was published today by the Vatican press office.
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"As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You" (John 20:21). On the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, the Venerable John Paul II, at the beginning of a new millennium of the Christian era, reaffirmed forcefully the need to renew the commitment to take to all the proclamation of the Gospel with "the same enthusiasm of the Christians of the early times" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 58). It is the most precious service that the Church can give to humanity and to each person who seeks the profound reasons to live his existence fully. Because of this, this same invitation resounds every year in the celebration of World Mission Sunday. In fact, the incessant proclamation of the Gospel also vivifies the Church, her fervor, her apostolic spirit, it renews her pastoral methods so that they are increasingly appropriate to the new situations -- also those that require a new evangelization -- and animated by the missionary drive: "the mission renews the Church, reinforces the faith and Christian identity, gives new enthusiasm and new motivations. The faith is strengthened by giving it! The new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support in the commitment to the universal mission" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Missio," No. 2).
Go and Proclaim
This objective is continually revived by the celebration of the liturgy, especially of the Eucharist, which always ends recalling the mandate of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles: "Go ..." (Matthew 28:19). The liturgy is always a call 'from the world' and a new sending 'to the world' to give witness of what has been experienced: the salvific power of the Word of God, the salvific power of the Paschal Mystery of Christ. All those who have encountered the Risen Lord have felt the need to proclaim him to others, as did the two disciples of Emmaus. They, after recognizing the Lord in the breaking of the bread, "rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered there" and they told what had happened on the road (Luke24:33-34). Pope John Paul II exhorted to be "vigilant and prepared to recognize his face and run to our brothers, to take the great announcement to them: We have seen the Lord!" ("Novo Millennio Ineunte," No. 59).
All peoples are recipients of the proclamation of the Gospel. The Church "is missionary by nature, as she takes her origin from the mission of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, according to the plan of God the Father" ("Ad Gentes," No. 2). This is "the happiness and vocation proper of the Church, her most profound identity. She exists to evangelize" (Paul VI, "Evangelii Nuntiandi," No. 14). Consequently, she can never be shut-in on herself. She roots herself in certain places in order to go beyond. Her action, in adherence to the word of Christ and under the influence of his grace and of his charity, is made fully and actually present to all men and to all peoples to lead them to faith in Christ (cf. "Ad Gentes," No. 5).
This task has not lost its urgency. On the contrary, "the mission of Christ Redeemer, entrusted to the Church, is still far from being accomplished ... a global look on humanity shows that this mission is still at the beginning and that we must commit ourselves with all our energies in its service" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Missio," No. 1). We cannot remain tranquil in face of the thought that, after two thousand years, there are still peoples who do not know Christ and have not yet heard his message of salvation.
Not only this; the multitude grows of those that, even having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have forgotten and abandoned it, not recognizing themselves now in the Church; and many environments, also in traditionally Christian societies, today are refractory in opening themselves to the word of faith. Underway is a cultural change, fueled also by globalization, by movements of thought and by the prevailing relativism, a change that leads to a mentality and a lifestyle that does without the evangelical message, as if God did not exist, and which exalts the search for well-being, easy earnings, careers and success as the objective of life, even at the cost of moral values.
Co-responsibility of All
The universal mission involves all, everything and always. The Gospel is not an exclusive good of the one who has received it, but is a gift to be shared, good news to communicate. And this gift-commitment is entrusted not only to a few, but to all the baptized, who are "a chosen race ... a holy nation, God's own people" (1 Peter 2:9), to proclaim his wonderful works.
All activities are also implied in it. Attention and cooperation in the evangelizing work of the Church in the world cannot be limited to some particular moments and occasions, nor can they be considered as one of the many pastoral activities: the missionary dimension of the Church is essential and, therefore, must always be kept present. Hence it is important that every baptized person as well as the ecclesial communities be interested not only in a sporadic and irregular way in the mission, but in a constant way, as the way of Christian life. The Missionary Day itself is not an isolated moment in the course of the year, but a precious occasion to pause to reflect on how we respond to the missionary vocation; an essential response for the life of the Church.
Evangelization is a complex process and includes several elements. Among these, a peculiar attention on the part of missionary animation, has always been given to solidarity. This is also one of the objectives of World Mission Sunday, which through the Papal Missionary Associations requests help in carrying out tasks of evangelization in mission territories. An attempt is made to support institutions necessary to establish and consolidate the Church through catechists, seminaries, priests and also to make a contribution to the improvement of the conditions of life of persons in countries in which the phenomenons of poverty, malnutrition especially of children, illnesses, lack of health services and education are more acute. This also falls within the mission of the Church. Proclaiming the Gospel, she takes seriously human life in the full sense. It is unacceptable, reaffirmed the Servant of God Paul VI, that in evangelization subjects are neglected that refer to human promotion, justice, liberation from every form of oppression, obviously in respect of the autonomy of the political sphere. To be indifferent to the temporal problems of humanity would mean "to forget the lesson which comes to us from the Gospel concerning love of our neighbor who is suffering and in need" ("Evangelii Nuntiandi," No. 31); it would not be attuned to Jesus' conduct, who "went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity" (Matthew 9:35).
Thus, through co-responsible participation in the mission of the Church, the Christian becomes a builder of communion, of peace, of the solidarity that Christ has given us, and collaborates in the realization of the salvific plan of God for the whole of humanity. The challenges that it meets, calls Christians to walk together with others, and the mission is an integral part of this path with all. In it we bear, though in vessels of clay, our Christian vocation, the inestimable treasure of the Gospel, the living testimony of Jesus dead and resurrected, encountered and believed in the Church.
May this World Mission Sunday revive in each one the desire and the joy of "going" to meet humanity taking Christ to all. In his name I impart to you from my heart the Apostolic Blessing, in particular to all those who most toil and suffer for the Gospel.
In the Vatican, Jan. 6, 2011, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
Pope's Message for World Mission Day
"Faith Is a Gift That Is Given to Us to Be Shared"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2012 .- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Mission Day, which will be celebrated this Oct. 21, 2012.
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"Called to Make the Word of Truth Shine" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 6)
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The celebration of World Mission Day has an altogether particular meaning this year. The observance of the 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Ad gentes, the opening of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the subject of the New Evangelization concur in reaffirming the will of the Church to commit herself with greater boldness and ardor in the mission ad gentes, so that the Gospel will reach the ends of the earth.
The Ecumenical Second Vatican Council, with the participation of Catholic bishops from all corners of the earth, was a luminous sign of the universality of the Church, bringing together, for the first time, such a large number of Conciliar Fathers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania. Missionary bishops and native bishops, pastors of communities spread among non-Christian populations, who brought to the Conciliar sessions the image of a Church present in all the continents and who made themselves interpreters of the complex reality of the then so-called "Third World." Rich in the experience stemming from being pastors of young churches in the process of formation and animated by passion for the spread of the Kingdom of God, they contributed in an important way to reaffirming the necessity and urgency of the evangelization ad gentes, and hence to put at the center of ecclesiology the missionary nature of the Church.
This vision has not diminished today, rather, it has gone through a profound theological and pastoral reflection and, at the same time, it is proposed again with renewed urgency because the number of those who still do not know Christ has grown. "The men who await Christ are still an immense number," said Blessed John Paul II in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio on the permanent validity of the missionary mandate, and he added: "We cannot be at peace when thinking of the millions of our brothers and sisters, also redeemed by the Blood of Christ, who live in ignorance of the love of God" (n. 86). In convoking the Year of Faith, I also wrote that Christ "today as then, sends us to the paths of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7); a proclamation that, as the Servant of God Paul VI also expressed, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, "is not an optional contribution for the Church: it is the duty that is incumbent upon her by the mandate of the Lord Jesus, so that men will be able to believe and be saved. Yes, this message is necessary. It is unique. It is irreplaceable" (n. 5). Hence we are in need of taking up again the same apostolic impetus of the first Christian communities, which, small and vulnerable, with their proclamation and witness, were able to spread the Gospel in the whole then-known world.
It is no wonder, therefore, that Vatican Council II and the successive Magisterium of the Church insist especially on the missionary mandate that Christ entrusted to his disciples, which must be the commitment of all the People of God: bishops; priests; deacons; men and women religious; and laity. The task of proclaiming the Gospel in every part of the earth corresponds primarily to bishops, directly responsible for the evangelization of the world, be it as members of the Episcopal College or as pastors of particular Churches. In fact, they "were consecrated not only for a diocese, but for the salvation of the whole world" (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris mission, 63), "messengers of faith who bring new disciples to Christ" (Ad gentes, 20) and render "visible the missionary spirit and ardor of the People of God, so that the whole diocese becomes missionary" (Ibid., 38).
The Priority of Evangelization
The mandate to preach the Gospel is not exhausted, therefore, by a Pastor in caring for that portion of the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care, or in the sending of a fidei donum priest, layman or laywoman. It should involve the whole activity of the particular Church, all her sectors, in short, all her being and action. Vatican II indicated this clearly and the successive Magisterium confirmed it forcefully. This requires the constant adaptation of lifestyles, pastoral plans and diocesan organization to this fundamental dimension of being Church, especially in our world in constant change. And this is also true for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for the Ecclesial Movements: all the components of the great mosaic of the Church must feel strongly drawn in by the Lord's mandate to preach the Gospel, so that Christ is proclaimed everywhere. We, Pastors, men and women religious and all the faithful in Christ, must follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who, "a prisoner for Christ on behalf of you Gentiles" (Ephesians 3:1), worked, suffered and fought to have the Gospel reach the Gentiles (cf. Ephesians 1:24-29), not sparing energy, time and means to make Christ's Message known.
The mission ad gentes should be, also today, the constant horizon and paradigm of every ecclesial activity, because the very identity of the Church is constituted by faith in the Mystery of God, who revealed himself in Christ to bring us salvation, and by the mission to witness and proclaim him to the world, until his return. Like St. Paul, we should care for those who are far away, those who still do not know Christ and have not experienced God's paternity, in the awareness that "the missionary cooperation must be extended today to new forms including not only economic aid but also direct participation in evangelization" (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 82). The celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization will be propitious occasions to re-launch missionary cooperation, especially in this latter dimension.
Faith and Proclamation
The eagerness to proclaim Christ drives us also to read history to perceive the problems, aspirations and hopes of humanity that Christ must heal, purify and fill with his presence. His message, in fact, is always timely, it is set in the very heart of history and is able to answer the profoundest concerns of every man. Because of this, in all her components the Church must be aware that "the immense horizon of the ecclesial mission, the complexity of the present situation require a renewed modality today, to be able to communicate the Word of God effectively" (Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 97). Above all, this calls for a renewed adherence of personal and community faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "at a time of profound change as that which humanity is experiencing" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 8).
One of the obstacles to the impetus of evangelization is, in fact, the crisis of faith, not only in the Western world, but in a good part of humanity, which nevertheless is hungry and thirsty for God and must be invited and led to the bread of life and the living water, as the Samaritan woman who went to Jacob's well and talked with Christ.
As the Evangelist John recounts, this event of this woman is particularly significant (cf. John 4:1-30): she meets Jesus, who asks her for a drink, but then speaks to her about a new water, able to satiate thirst for ever. At first the woman does not understand, she remains at the material level, but slowly she is led by the Lord to undertake a path of faith that leads her to recognize him as the Messiah. And regarding this, Saint Augustine says: "after having received the Lord Christ in her heart, what else could [this woman] do but abandon her jar and run to proclaim the Good News?" (Homily, 15, 30). The meeting with Christ as a living person who satiates the thirst of the heart cannot but lead to the desire to share with others the joy of this presence and to make it known so that all can experience it. It is necessary to renew the enthusiasm to communicate the faith so as to promote a New Evangelization of the communities and countries of ancient Christian tradition, which are losing their connection with God, in order to rediscover the joy of believing. The concern to evangelize must never be left on the margin of ecclesial activity and of the personal life of the Christian, but it must be strongly characterized, by the awareness of being recipients and, at the same time, missionaries of the Gospel. The main point of the proclamation is always the same: the Kerygma of the dead and risen Christ for the salvation of the world; the Kerygma of the absolute and total love of God for every man and every women, which culminated in the sending of the Eternal and Only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, who did not disdain to assume the poverty of our human nature, loving and rescuing it from sin and death by offering himself on the cross.
In this plan of love realized by Christ, faith in God is above all a gift and mystery to be received in the heart and in life and for which to be always grateful to the Lord. But faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it will bear fruit; it is a light that must not be kept hidden, but illumine the whole house. It is the most important gift that has been given to us in our lives and we cannot keep it for ourselves.
The Proclamation Becomes Charity
"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" said the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16). This word resounds forcefully for every Christian and for every Christian community in all the Continents. Even for churches in mission territories, churches that are young in the main, of recent foundation, doing missionary activity has become a connatural dimension, even if they themselves are still in need of missionaries. So many priests, men and women religious, from every part of the world, numerous laymen and, in fact, whole families leave their countries, their local communities and go to other churches to witness and proclaim the Name of Christ, in whom humanity finds salvation. It is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity between the churches, so that every man can hear and hear again the proclamation that heals and approach the Sacraments, sources of true life.
Together with this lofty sign of faith which is transformed into charity, I recall and thank the Pontifical Missionary Works, an instrument for cooperation in the universal mission of the Church in the world. Through their action the proclamation of the Gospel becomes also an intervention in aid of neighbors, justice for the poorest, possibility of instruction in the most isolated villages, medical care in remote places, emancipation from poverty, rehabilitation of the marginalized, support for the development of peoples, the overcoming of ethnic divisions, respect for life in every phase.
Dear brothers and sisters, I invoke upon the work of evangelization ad gentes, and in particular upon its workers, the effusion of the Holy Spirit, so that the Grace of God will make it advance more decisively in the history of the world. With Blessed John Henry Newman, I would like to pray: "O Lord, accompany your missionaries in the lands of evangelization, put the right words on their lips, make their toil fruitful." May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, accompany all missionaries of the Gospel.
From the Vatican, January 6, 2012, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.