World Mission Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 at the request of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith as a day of prayer and offerings for and promotion of mission. It is celebrated in every diocese, parish and institute of the whole Catholic world. Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, that it is a time to remind the whole Catholic faithful of the permanent validity of the missionary mandate the Lord proclaimed in John 20:21: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Christ’s act of sending is as timely today as it was when he sent out his apostles. On World Mission Sunday we recommit ourselves to sharing in the mission of Christ. The pastoral theologian, Michael Downey, has said that it is not so much that the Church has a mission, but that the mission has a Church. The Church grew out of the mission that Jesus gave to his apostles and that the Church was born out of the missionary effort of the apostles.
The Second Vatican Council made it clear that the Church is missionary by its very nature! For some people it means going to another country and culture where people speak another language and have other customs. For all of us who are baptized it means witnessing to the love of Christ right where we are.
If the Church should lose its sense of mission it would deny the very source of its identity. Every diocese, parish and individual member must be concerned about mission. It is not enough to be concerned about maintaining the structures and practices we have established; what we must do is continually expand our horizons so that every aspect of parish life reflects or is an expression of mission.
Today, more than 1,150 young churches of Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Latin America have these same needs we had in this country until the beginning of the 20th century. As we remember our own mission history this World Mission Sunday, we can offer our prayers and financial help for the young and growing churches of today.
Since we are a world-wide faith community we cannot only be concerned about the people in our immediate circle or environment. Adapting the words of the Prophet Isaiah we have to "expand the tent pegs" of our hearts to take in the whole world. We cannot afford to adopt an isolationist stance toward people of countries, cultures, languages or religious traditions.
We must open up our hearts to the needs of the Church throughout the world and World Mission Sunday is one way to remind us of our missionary vocation. Let’s not delay, or linger. Christ sends us out at the conclusion of each celebration of the Mass to give witness to his love for the all people. How do you live mission? How does your parish express the call to mission?
Sr. Madge Karecki, SSJ-TOSF