My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This year, World Mission Sunday takes place during an Extraordinary Missionary Month, called by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, to mark the 100th anniversary of the apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XV “Maximum Illud,” which emphasizes the missionary call to proclaim the Gospel.
The universality of the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ led Benedict XV to call for an end to all forms of nationalism and ethnocentrism, or the merging of the preaching of the Gospel with the economic and military interests of the colonial powers.
In his Apostolic Letter, Pope Benedict XV noted that the universal mission of the Church requires setting aside exclusivist ideas of membership in one’s own country and ethnic group. The opening of the culture and the community to the salvific newness of Jesus Christ requires leaving behind every kind of undue ethnic and ecclesial introversion.
In his letter for World Mission Day, Pope Francis said, “This missionary mandate reaches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized woman and man is a mission. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. As far as God’s love is concerned, no one is useless or insignificant. Each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love. Even if parents can betray their love by lies, hatred and infidelity, God never takes back His gift of life. From eternity, He has destined each of His children to share in His divine and eternal life (Eph 1:3-6).”
During this month, Pope Francis invites all baptized Christians to a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ in the Universal Church which is our mission. The title of the present Message is the same as that of the October Missionary Month: Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World. Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith graciously bestowed on us in baptism.
Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church. In his message for World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father also had this to say: “The Church is our mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart. Hope opens us up to the eternal horizons of the divine life that we share. Charity, of which we have a foretaste in the sacraments and in fraternal love, impels us to go forth to the ends of the earth.”
In our own diocese on Sunday, October 20, we will celebrate World Mission Sunday. Our own Bishop Neil Tiedemann will celebrate the 11:00 am Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. James, and will distribute awards to our school and religious education children who have worked this past year for the missions.
As we put out into the deep waters of our baptism, we recognize that we do not swim alone. We entrust the Church’s mission to the intercession of Mary our Mother. In union with her Son, from the moment of the Incarnation the Blessed Virgin set out on her pilgrim way. She was fully involved in the mission of Jesus, a mission that became her own at the foot of the Cross: the mission of cooperating, as Mother of the Church, in bringing new sons and daughters of God to birth in the Spirit and in faith.