A Catholic Monthly Magazine

World Mission Day – Sunday 22 October

Fr Kevin Head sm

Rediscovering Mission at the heart of the Christian faith

World Mission Sunday reminds us that mission is not something added to the Christian faith. Rather, it is at the heart of the faith. All Christians are missionaries of the Gospel and they are called to play an active part in the mission of Christ. As the publicity for World Mission Day 2013 expressed it, ‘We are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel.’

When I was a small child, the dental nurse told me: ‘This will hurt only a little bit.’ My experience was that it hurt a great deal. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that following him will hurt a great deal, that his kingdom on earth is far from pain-free, and that we are to take up our cross every day if we are to follow him (Luke 9:23).

We are baptised in a bath of pain, as it were, into Christ’s death and resurrection. The cup to which Jesus refers (Matthew 20:22), when he asks James and John if they can drink the cup that he will have to drink, is a symbol both of joy and of sorrow in life, and it is to be poured out in serving others.

By his example in living out his mission, Jesus effectively says, ‘Look at me. Do what I do.’ He teaches us that in God’s reign, those with power have their power only in order to serve, by helping others to grow, and by protecting the frail ones and the children.

We see this lived out day after day: nurses and doctors in relation to their patients; teachers with their students; parents with their children; wives and husbands with each other; missionaries in relation to those whom they serve.

World Mission Day is especially about mission in foreign lands, and while most of us do not have to go overseas to exercise mission, there is something romantic about setting out to work for the Church in one of those places designated as a mission country. The romance ends pretty quickly when you get there.

It can be horrible being away from home and family. The everyday comforts to which one is ordinarily accustomed are no longer there, often you are one of the few people from your own country within miles and miles, and you do not have any resistance to the physical illnesses to which local people are immune. In many cases, you don’t understand the language, and it takes you years to master it, if you manage to do so at all. Missionaries deserve our prayers, don’t they?

Our mission field, of course, is right where we are now. It is in loving service of others in ordinary things such as turning up to do the chores that need doing, visiting the sick and those in prison, welcoming strangers and visitors, teaching the children by the goodness of our lives and by the care with which we explain the faith to them, and supporting one another in faith by being faithful ourselves even when, and especially when, we don’t feel like it.

We are to live our Baptism by pouring out our lives in serving others. In this way, we serve the mission of the Church, and do our small and important part in building the reign of God on earth.

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