World Mission Sunday is the Holy Father’s annual appeal for spiritual and financial support so that the life-giving work of overseas mission and missionaries can continue. It always falls on the second last Sunday in October, and like the Good Friday collection for the Holy Land and Peter’s Pence, it is one of three yearly universal Church collections.
World Mission Sunday collections take place in every single parish where the Church is present. This includes not only Ireland and Europe, but also in poorer parishes in developing countries. It is a moment of universal solidarity when each member of the Church family, regardless of location or background, play their part in supporting each other. This is what makes it such a special celebration.
‘You shall be my witnesses’
The Pope reflected on three foundations of “the life and mission of every disciple”. The first, he said, is “the call of every Christian to bear witness to Christ,” calling it the “heart of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples.”
Pope Francis said Christ was the first to be sent to proclaim, as the Father’s missionary and as His “faithful witness.”
Living in a missionary key
The Pope said each baptized Christian is called to carry out the Church’s mission in a communitarian way, even in the ordinary activities of our daily lives.
Christians, he added, are sent on mission by the Church in Christ’s name, and never under our own initiative. He noted that Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, since “the witness of Christians to Christ is primarily communitarian in nature.”
Missionaries, said Pope Francis, proclaim the Good News of God’s salvation in Christ, not their own abilities or persuasive qualities.
“In evangelization,” he added, “the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. One is at the service of the other.”
‘To the ends of the earth’
Pope Francis went on to consider a second foundation of the Christian mission: “to the ends of the earth.”
He said the early disciples gradually expanded the scope of their mission, and lived an image of the Church “going forth” and guided by divine Providence, not the desire to proselytize.
As they faced persecution, early Christians fled their homelands, taking the Gospel with them to new countries, something which happens in our own day.
Pope Francis added that the phrase “to the ends of the earth” also challenges modern Christians to proclaim Christ to those who have still not encountered Him.
‘Power from the Holy Spirit’
The Pope then turned to the third foundation of mission: “You will receive power from the Holy Spirit”.
He said the Spirit broke the bonds of the Apostles’ fear in the first days after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The Spirit prompted St. Peter to give his missionary address to people in Jerusalem, as recounted in Acts, kicking off an “an era in which the disciples of Jesus evangelized the world.”
Pope Francis added that Christians are only able to bear “full and genuine witness to Christ the Lord with the Spirit’s inspiration and assistance.
Prayer, said the Pope, plays an important role in the missionary life, since it “allows us to be refreshed and strengthened by the Spirit as the inexhaustible divine source of renewed energy and joy in sharing Christ’s life with others.”
Notable missionary anniversaries
Pope Francis then said that 2022 sees several notable anniversaries in the Church’s missionary spirit.
The first is the 400th anniversary since the establishment of the Sacred Congregation De Propaganda Fide, now the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Society for the Propagation of the Faith by a young French woman, Pauline Jaricot, who will be beatified in 2022.
Pope St. Paul VI granted the Society the status of “Pontifical” 100 years ago, along with the Association of the Holy Childhood and the Society of Saint Peter the Apostle.
Pope Francis prayed that the local Churches will “find in these Societies a sure means for fostering the missionary spirit among the People of God.”
New era of Christian mission
In conclusion, the Pope expressed his dream to see a “completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities.”