World Mission Sunday – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is not possible to both take seriously the Gospel of Jesus and to ignore the world and its difficulties. The Gospel takes us beyond ourselves and our personal world. We are bound to our neighbour – our nearest neighbour and our neighbour on the other side of the world.
We know that the broad notion of neighbour includes a tremendous number of people: our families and friends, our co-workers and colleagues, our actual geographic neighbours, our church community, connections we hear about from family and friends, and an ever-widening network of strangers from nearby and faraway, those whose situations are brought to our attention in various ways.
The world is getting very small. We have become aware of the vast number of people who are in need of help and compassion: people who are victims of natural disasters, human-made tragedies, downturns in the economy, shrinking opportunities for employment, and the injustice in our world.
Requests come to us every day, telling us how we can help. If the need is beyond our immediate situation, the most practical help is usually financial. We know that we will see more and more requests as time passes.
But we have limited time, energy and financial resources. We simply cannot do it all! We have no choice but to be discerning about the ways we can offer to help
Most people have a hierarchy of responses: start with those closest to us and then extend outwards, possibly giving preference to groups or organizations with a natural connection.
We probably don’t use the word, but our hierarchy of giving donations is based in careful discernment. Some families determine how much money they will distribute and will have a list of worthy causes to support.
Of course, money is becoming tight, especially for people on a fixed income. Most people I know will reach out and help those closest to them – children who are struggling with their lives and surviving from paycheque to paycheque, grandchildren who are celebrating birthdays or getting married, and young people starting on their lives of independence.
There are often limitations placed on how much we can give. I’m in touch with a lot of people, many of whom are seniors on fixed incomes.
Most of them must be careful about making sure they have their essential needs taken care of. Beyond that, they are super generous.
The Church acknowledges today as World Mission Sunday. The Church is reminding us that through our generosity, we can extend our compassion beyond our own immediate borders to our sisters and brothers who are crying out from every corner of the globe.
Pope Francis reminds us that the Church is missionary by nature. [His statement is available on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va)].
He says that it is important to ask ourselves “certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent.”
He speaks of the transformative power of the Gospel. He is assuming that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Francis quotes Benedict XVI in stating that this relationship “gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
The new direction Francis speaks of is found in the hope that Christ continues his mission through our imitation of the Good Samaritan (“caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity”) and the Good Shepherd (“constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere”).
The Pope reminds us that our mission includes the challenge “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel.”
He goes on to refer to young people as the hope of mission. He writes of the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops being held in 2018 will have the theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
Francis says that this represents a “providential opportunity to involve young people in the shared missionary responsibility that needs their rich imagination and creativity.”
The Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd, an increasingly smaller world, increasing numbers of neighbours, discernment, the use of our imagination and creativity: it all adds up to the careful and responsible use of our resources.