World Mission Sunday
Today we observe World Mission Sunday, and the Church reflects on what it means to be engaged in mission. This impulse to go out and make disciples of all nations is an obedient response to Our Lord’s command and a task demanded by the universal nature of the Church. In preaching Christ to all nations, our aim is the liberation of humanity from the slavery of sin and ignorance, and the transformation of society into the family of God.
Now it may be asked, and indeed it is asked especially in a society like ours which prides itself on being so tolerant (though this is debatable), whether it is right for us to go out and make converts. Why can’t we leave people alone and let them find their own way in life? After all aren’t all religions equal? Are we really respecting the rights of others by engaging in missionary activity? Well, we let Our Lord himself answer these questions.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and behold I am with you always, to the close of the age (Mt. 28:18).
In spite of what some people may say the Church is not a business; she produces nothing and she has no desire for power. The Church has the simple duty to proclaim the truth according to the will of Christ, and to represent the face of God in our world. And unlike some groups like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Seventh Day Adventists and some other fundamentalist sects, the Catholic Church has no clients. We don’t target any particular group of people. Rather we want to give each person the chance to choose and to find his or her own way. And we do this in imitation of Our Lord whose call to discipleship was always an invitation. In imitation of Our Lord, the Church preaches the good news of salvation. This is properly called evangelization. Every aspect of the Church’s life is a proclamation of the Good News: be it the hidden life of the contemplative monk or nun, or the plate of soup given to a hungry person. If the Church were to stop her missionary activity, she would simply cease to be.
Again, in imitation of Our Lord, the Church is a sign of contradiction. Someone said the Church is never popular but always attractive. The Church’s preaching demands conversion, a change of life and a submission to the Truth. This is a requirement which the Church has faithfully preached throughout the ages. Sadly, the Body of Christ has been divided. When the first Protestants split from the Catholic Church, they eliminated some authentic beliefs and added new ones of their own making. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that these forms of Christianity are really incomplete forms of Christianity, they are all missing elements of the Truth which the Catholic Church has faithfully preserved. Now, we Catholics shouldn’t be embarrassed to proclaim that the Catholic Church was founded by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and only it has been able to preserve all Christian truth without error. And more and more people in our day are coming to realize this. Secularism and relativism are simply not satisfying the human spirit. How can they be? They are lies. Man was created to know the truth and to live by its light. It is no surprise then that converts continue to make their submission to the Catholic Church every year. On the continent of Africa, for example, there are more than a million converts a year because people are coming to realise that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ himself. The Church of England wasn’t, nor were the Lutherans, or the Baptists or the Methodists, or the River of Life Community Church – they were all established by human beings with their own ideas of how Christianity should be preached. In Catholicism we find the answer – we find the truth about life’s most troubling questions: Why am I here? Who made me? What must I believe? How must I behave?
Never popular, but always attractive: this describes the Church which Saint Paul called ‘the pillar and foundation of truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15). The Church offers the world truthful answers to these questions, and in so doing she fulfils the divine mandate to make disciples of all nations.
And so how can we participate in this mandate? Well, first of all we must know our Catholic faith. So many Catholics today are quite ignorant of what it means to be a Catholic and what the Church is and stands for. We must then live our Catholic faith, which is much more than coming to Mass on Sunday or when we feel like it; and finally we must spread our Catholic faith – we are all called to be missionaries and ambassadors for Christ to a world so much in need of him – after all, only he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Perhaps you may know of someone who has turned away from the practice of their faith: maybe a spouse, or one of your children, or a relative, or a neighbour. Perhaps you know someone who is searching for truth, or maybe someone who may be prejudiced against the Catholic Church. If you don’t feel up to evangelizing them face to face, then there are numerous booklets and pamphlets available in the priory shop which might help them and give them an opening to asking more questions. Why not slip one through their letter box and see how the Holy Spirit uses that invitation. Far more people will be brought to Christ by Catholics who evangelize quietly in their own neighbourhoods than by the priest pounding away on the pulpit week after week.
And so, on this World Mission Sunday let us all pray for the success of the Church’s missionary efforts by which God calls people out of darkness to live in his own wonderful light.