World Mission Sunday is celebrated in every Catholic community in the world on the third Sunday of October. Every year the Holy Father writes a message to the Catholic community and indeed all peoples of the world about World Mission. In this year’s message he says that, “marked by the suffering and challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: “Here am I, send me” (6:8). This is the ever new response to the Lord’s question: “Whom shall I send?” This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis. It’s a moment of grace to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in situations of poverty, violence and oppression. The Church continues the mission of Jesus and sends us everywhere so that, through our witness and the proclamation of the Gospel, God may continue to manifest his love and transform hearts, societies and cultures’.
On this day through prayer, reflection and material help we express our support of missionaries from all continents who are striving to preach and live the Gospel among those have yet to receive it. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. We are indeed frightened, disoriented and afraid. Pain and death make us experience our human frailty, but at the same time remind us of our deep desire for life and liberation from evil.
In this context, the call to mission, the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbour presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service, prayer and whatever material resources we may have for the benefit of others. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others. In the sacrifice of the cross, where the mission of Jesus is fully accomplished, mission is a free and conscious response to God’s call. Yet, we discern this call only when we have a personal relationship of love with Jesus present in his Church.
Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life? Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church? This interior openness is essential if we are to say to God: “Here am I, Lord, send me” (cf. Is 6:8).
Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of the pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenge us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless and those who lack food challenge us. Under the current restraints of the Covid-19 pandemic, being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others.
In my own personal missionary life in Chile, I discovered that I was evangelized by the poor. There, I worked with poor and exploited people under the dictatorship of General Pinochet. For 27 years I worked in poor parishes in the slums of Santiago among the marginalized, politically persecuted, school children. It was a very demanding ministry. In difficult situations I often felt vulnerable, but I experienced the power of God in my life and I realized that I was really just an instrument in the hands of the Lord. God’s grace enlightened me and led me to a true conversion so that I could trust him and allow him to use me as an instrument of his love and compassion for humanity.