Pope Francis: in mission with Jesus, the ‘Father’s Missionary’

On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis releases the annual Message for World Mission Sunday, placing mission with the context of the current coronavirus pandemic.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Pope Francis released his annual Message for World Mission Sunday 2020 on Pentecost Sunday. It’s theme is taken from Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” (6:8). World Mission Sunday is celebrated on October 18 in 2020.

Call to mission in the current crisis

The Pope began his message recalling the words he expressed on the occasion of the extraordinary moment of prayer on 27 March. Even in the disorientation and fear provoked by the current international crisis, Pope Francis says the Lord continues to ask “Whom shall I send?” Even as we touch our frailty in the pain and death we are experiencing, we are also reminded “of our deep desire for life and liberation from evil”. This is where the call to mission emerges as an “invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour” through °service and intercessory prayer”, he writes.

Missionaries with Jesus the Missionary

Just as Jesus completely accomplished His mission by dying on the cross, “we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others”, Pope Francis continues. Our mission, our call, our willingness to be sent originate in His own vocation as “the Father’s Missionary”. “Our personal vocation” is rooted in “the fact that we are sons and daughters of God in the Church”.

The Church as Missionary

Pope Francis explains that it is specifically the Church that “continues the mission of Jesus in history”. Thus the baptized members of the Church are sent forth in her name. Through our witness and proclamation of the Gospel, God continues “to manifest His love”. This is how He is able to “touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies and cultures in every place and time.”

Response to a relationship

“Mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call”, the Pope reminds us. A call to mission can only be discerned “when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church”. That leads to the question of our preparedness to welcome the Holy Spirit’s presence and action in our lives. That call comes to married couples, consecrated persons and ordained ministers in life’s everyday events. Another question the Pope says we should ask ourselves is if we are willing “to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith” and relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit., And the last question is if we are willing to respond as Mary did always “ready to be completely at the service of God’s will?” 

Mission responds to life

The challenge for the Church’s mission right now is that of “ Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic”, Pope Francis acknowledges. As people die alone or are abandoned, as others lost their jobs, with the necessity of social distancing or saying at home, the Pope says that we are invited “to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God”. This situation can increase our awareness of the need to relate to others, he says. God will touch our hearts through prayer which will always open us to understand others’ needs. Those of us who have  not been able to participate in the Church’s liturgical life now understand “the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday”, the Pope said.

Whom shall I send?

God’s question expressed by the Prophet Isaiah “is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: ‘Here am I, send me!’ (Is 6:8). Pope Francis says at the conclusion of his message. World Mission Sunday will be a day on which we will be able to reaffirm through prayer, reflection and material help our active participation in Jesus’s mission in His Church. Pope Francis specifies that the collection taken up on 18 October will support “the missionary work carried out in my name by the Pontifical Mission Societies, in order to meet the spiritual and material needs of peoples and Churches throughout the world, for the salvation of all.”