World Mission Sunday: Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019
World Mission Sunday has been celebrated since Pope Pius XI instituted it in 1926. The intention was to publicly renew our commitment to the missionary spirit of the universal Church. We commit ourselves to our common mission to evangelize the world.
The specific ways in which we evangelize and mission are particular to each one of us, and the notion of mission itself has changed a great deal since 1926. The Church in this millennium is quite different from that of the early twentieth century. As well, we live in a world and culture that has seen shifts in our historical consciousness. We have to tread carefully when we speak of evangelizing the world.
This day encourages prayer, cooperation, and financial support, as well as reminding us about the fundamental missionary character of every baptized Christian. The theme for 2019 is Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.
Pope Francis released a message for this year’s acknowledgement of the day, using that theme. He begins his message by reminding us of the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud. The title comes from Mark 16:15, referring to the “momentous charge” to go out to the whole world.
Among other points, it proposed the Pontifical Missionary Societies (http://www.missionsocieties.ca, in Canada) as a missionary resource. In that, Francis describes Benedict XV’s proposal as farsighted and prophetic.
The Pope writes of the importance of renewing the Church’s missionary commitment and giving fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world all that was offered by Christ.
Francis stresses that the Church is on mission in the world. He writes of how our Christian faith enables us to see the world with God’s eyes and heart. My experience is that this is a huge leap for most of us. We tend to view our own personal lives and our time and the world around us from our own viewpoint. It takes a lot of imagination and hope to shift to God’s angle.
Pope Francis sees that our missionary spirit means that we press forward to the farthest frontiers. He speaks of how each of us is a mission. This means that we never stand still. People in love never stand still: they are drawn out of themselves; they are attracted and attract others in turn; they give themselves to others and build relationships that are life-giving. He goes on to say that each of us is a mission to the world, because each of us is the fruit of God’s love.
The Pontiff sees it as providential that the centenary year of Maximum illud coincides with the Special Synod on the Churches in the Amazon. Let us pray for the work of that Synod. Let us also pray for the grace to understand more deeply what Francis means when he says that each of us is a mission.