A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Good News takes many forms – Mission Sunday

by Fr Brian O'Connell sm

by Fr Brian O'Connell sm

One of Anthony De Mello’s stories is a legend about God who decided to visit the earth, and sent an angel to survey the situation prior to the visit. The angel returned with his report, ‘Most of them lack food and most lack employment.’ God said, ‘Then I shall become incarnate in the form of food for the hungry and work for the unemployed.’

Like all of de Mello’s stories, it enshrines only part of a truth, and is a starting point rather than an answer to a question. But it is a good place to start thinking about Mission Sunday. What are the deepest needs of people? Are they spiritual or material or both? The gospel reminds us that humanity does not live on bread alone, but if a person is constantly hungry and jobless, it is doubtful whether they will heed their deeper hunger for God and meaning.

Benedict in his Letter for Mission Sunday affirms that there is a  global ‘crisis of faith’ and not just in the West, and people need once again to be invited to believe.

This issue of the Messenger contains testimony of three missionary priests, all of whom found themselves in  foreign lands and confronted with people in urgent need, which could not be ignored. So the Good News took the shape of helping people remove themselves from extreme violence in East Timor, or it could mean a priest on a bicycle visiting a Maximum Security prison with a bag over his shoulder containing mail and back numbers of devotional magazines. The Good News includes acknowledging the urgent non-ephemeral needs of people. It does not stop there.

Millions live in ignorance of the love of God. (Redemptoris Missio- John-Paul II) This is the most urgent reality for disciples of Jesus, and members of the Church which of its very nature is missionary. What is encouraging, is that the former mission countries in what used to be known as ‘the third world’ are leading the way in spreading the Good News around the globe.

Dilli - Planting cabbages

A plantation near Dili in East Timor where village people are growing cabbages with the assistance of Caritas Dili personnel.

Mission centres in ‘first world’ countries are specialising in supplying targeted assistance to build essential infrastructure, such as well-sinking equipment to provide clean drinking water;  moreover, some senior students in USA High Schools spend their summers in Central America building modular housing for the poor. These are not substitutes for the gospel, but are an essential part of it. Every baptised person is called to be part of this process. Each of us could well use the prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman:

Accompany , O Lord, your missionaries in the lands to be evangelized, put the right words on their lips, make their efforts fruitful.  

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