“As the Father Has Sent Me, So I Send You”
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2011 (Zenit.org).- 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