Sunday, 23 October 2005

Mission Sunday - 23 October 2005

Readings: Exodus 22:20-26; Psalm 18; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40
(30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

In eternity, the Son proceeds from the Father as his Word; in time, the Son was sent into the world to bring the wisdom of God to bear on human affairs. In eternity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as the gift of their love; in time the Holy Spirit was sent to establish the love of God in human hearts through the gift we call grace. We can even say that the act of creation itself is an outreach of God's goodness, a work of God's mercy, and that in sending the Son and the Spirit, the Father confirms God's commitment to the world.

At times God grew impatient with His people and resolved to disown them. This happened at the time of Noah, at the time of Moses, and at many other points along the way. But with the coming of Jesus, God has committed himself definitively to His people. He has endorsed the work of creation and has intervened decisively in its history. This is what the life and work of Jesus Christ is all about, the coming among us of the Son, and the breathing upon us of the Spirit. We can think of the Son and the Spirit as the arms of God reaching out to embrace our world, to hold it and to heal it.

One of the wonderful aspects of God's graciousness towards us is that God makes us his co-workers in the salvation of the world. This means that we, in our turn, are also missionaries, reaching out to others and adding our strength to God's ongoing labour of preaching and healing. All baptised and confirmed Christians have a responsibility for the mission to bear witness to the world around us. There are many different ways of doing this, depending on our gifts and temperament and on the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

We have all experienced a type of religious proselytising that is counter-productive. If missionaries approach us in ways that are intimidating or aggressive, if they do not listen to us, or show any interest in our striving for truth and goodness, then we are easily turned off. If they call themselves Christian missionaries, then they should know that such ways of preaching are not in accord with the gospel.

Back in 1975 Pope Paul VI produced a wonderful letter on evangelisation in which he said that the modern world needed witnesses more than teachers. What he meant was that the example of Christian living is more powerful in promoting the faith than all the words we can speak. People will be convinced if they see us living with faith and courage. They will be convinced if they see a community where kindness and forgiveness rule. They will be convinced if they see us helping those who are wounded, or weak, or suffering, and trying to heal them.

There are still parts of the world where the Church is young, needing personnel and financial support from more established Christian communities, even where these communities themselves have problems of their own and perhaps need re-evangelisation. The missionary work of spreading the gospel takes different forms in different places and for different individuals. But each of us must give thanks for the goodness we have experienced from God and seek ways to share that goodness with others. This is what it means to be a missionary.

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