Message for World Mission Day

David Fernández Alonso-January 31, 2021-Reading time: 7 minutes

"We cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard" (Ac 4,20)

Dear brothers and sisters:

When we experience the power of God's love, when we recognize his Fatherly presence in our personal and community life, we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have experienced in our lives. we have seen and heard. Jesus' relationship with his disciples, his humanity revealed to us in the mystery of the incarnation, in his Gospel and in his Passover, show us the extent to which God loves our humanity and makes our joys and sufferings, our desires and our anxieties his own (cf. Vat. II, Past. Gaudium et spes, 22). Everything in Christ reminds us that the world in which we live and its need for redemption is not alien to him, and he also summons us to feel an active part of this mission: "Go out to the crossroads and invite all whom you meet" (Mt 22,9). No one is a stranger, no one can feel strange or distant to this love of compassion.

The experience of the apostles

The history of evangelization begins with a passionate search for the Lord who calls and wants to enter into a dialogue of friendship with each person, wherever he finds himself (cf. Jn 15,12-17). The apostles are the first to give an account of this, even remembering the day and hour in which they were found: "It was about four o'clock in the afternoon" (Jn 1,39). Friendship with the Lord, seeing him heal the sick, eat with sinners, feed the hungry, approach the excluded, touch the impure, identify with the needy, invite the beatitudes, teach in a new and authoritative way, leaves an indelible mark, capable of arousing amazement, and an expansive and gratuitous joy that cannot be contained. As the prophet Jeremiah said, this experience is the burning fire of his active presence in our hearts that impels us to mission, even if it sometimes entails sacrifices and misunderstandings (cf. 20:7-9). Love is always on the move and sets us in motion to share the most beautiful and hopeful proclamation: "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1,41).

With Jesus we have seen, heard and felt that things can be different. He inaugurated, already for today, the times to come by reminding us of an essential characteristic of our being human, so often forgotten: "We have been made for the fullness that can only be attained in love" (Encyclical Letter, p. 24). Fratelli tutti, 68). New times that give rise to a faith capable of fostering initiatives and forging communities based on men and women who learn to take charge of their own fragility and that of others, promoting fraternity and social friendship (cf. ibid., 67). The ecclesial community shows its beauty every time it gratefully remembers that the Lord first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4,19). This "loving predilection of the Lord surprises us, and the amazement - by its very nature - cannot be possessed by ourselves or imposed on us. [Only in this way can the miracle of gratuitousness, the free gift of self, flourish. Nor can missionary fervor be obtained as a consequence of reasoning or calculation. To put oneself in a "state of mission" is an effect of gratitude" (Message to the Pontifical Mission Societies, 21 May 2020).

However, times were not easy; the first Christians began their life of faith in a hostile and complicated environment. Stories of procrastination and confinement met with internal and external resistance that seemed to contradict and even deny what they had seen and heard; but this, far from being a difficulty or obstacle that led them to withdraw or become self-absorbed, impelled them to transform all inconveniences, contradictions and difficulties into an opportunity for the mission. The limits and impediments also became a privileged place to anoint everything and everyone with the Spirit of the Lord. Nothing and no one could be left out of this liberating proclamation.

We have the living testimony of all this in the Acts of the ApostlesThe book is the bedside book of the missionary disciples. It is the book that shows how the perfume of the Gospel permeated their way and aroused the joy that only the Spirit can give us. The book of the Acts of the Apostles teaches us to live through trials by embracing Christ, to mature the "conviction that God can act in every circumstance, even in the midst of apparent failures" and the certainty that "those who offer and give themselves to God out of love will surely be fruitful" (Apostolic Exhortation, Apostolic Exhortation, p. 4). Evangelii gaudium, 279). 

The current moment in our history is not an easy one either. The pandemic situation highlighted and amplified the pain, loneliness, poverty and injustices that so many were already suffering and exposed our false securities and the fragmentations and polarizations that silently lacerate us. The most fragile and vulnerable experienced even more their vulnerability and fragility. We have experienced discouragement, disenchantment, weariness, and even conformist and hopeless bitterness could take hold of our gazes. But we "do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus as Christ and Lord, for we are but your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Co 4,5). That is why we feel the Word of life resounding in our communities and homes, echoing in our hearts and telling us: "He is not here: he is risen!" (Lc 24:6); a Word of hope that breaks all determinism and, for those who allow themselves to be touched, gives the freedom and audacity necessary to stand up and creatively seek all possible ways of living compassion, that "sacramental" of God's closeness to us who abandons no one on the roadside. In this time of pandemic, in the face of the temptation to mask and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing, it is urgent to the mission of compassion able to make the necessary distance a place of encounter, care and promotion. "What we have seen and heard" (Ac 4,20), the mercy with which we have been treated becomes the point of reference and credibility that allows us to recover the shared passion to create "a community of belonging and solidarity, to which we can dedicate time, effort and goods" (Encyclical Letter, p. 4,20). Fratelli tutti, 36). It is his Word that daily redeems us and saves us from the excuses that lead us to lock ourselves in the vilest of skepticism: "it's all the same, nothing will change". And when faced with the question: "Why am I going to deprive myself of my securities, comforts and pleasures if I am not going to see any important results?", the answer always remains the same: "Jesus Christ has triumphed over sin and death and is full of power. Jesus Christ truly lives" (Exhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium275) and also wants us to be alive, fraternal and capable of hosting and sharing this hope. In the present context, missionaries of hope are urgently needed who, anointed by the Lord, are capable of prophetically reminding us that no one is saved on his own. 

Like the apostles and the early Christians, we too say with all our might: "We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard" (1).Ac 4,20). All that we have received, all that the Lord has given us, he has given us so that we can put it into play and give it freely to others. Like the apostles who have seen, heard and touched the salvation of Jesus (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4), so we today can touch the suffering and glorious flesh of Christ in everyday history and be encouraged to share with everyone a destiny of hope, that indisputable note that is born of knowing that we are accompanied by the Lord. We Christians cannot keep the Lord to ourselves: the Church's evangelizing mission expresses her total and public involvement in the transformation of the world and in the care of creation.

An invitation to each of us

The theme of this year's World Mission Day, "We cannot stop talking about what we have seen and heard" (Ac4:20), is an invitation to each one of us to "take charge" and make known what is in our hearts. This mission is and has always been the identity of the Church: "She exists in order to evangelize" (St. Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation, Apostolic Exhortation, p. 4,20). Evangelii nuntiandi, 14). Our life of faith weakens, loses prophecy and capacity for wonder and gratitude in personal isolation or by enclosing ourselves in small groups; by its very dynamic it demands a growing openness capable of reaching out to and embracing everyone. The first Christians, far from being seduced into seclusion in an elite, were attracted by the Lord and by the new life he offered to go among the people and bear witness to what they had seen and heard: the Kingdom of God is near. They did so with the generosity, gratitude and nobility proper to those who sow knowing that others will eat the fruit of their dedication and sacrifice. That is why I like to think that "even the weakest, most limited and wounded can be missionaries in their own way, because the good must always be allowed to be communicated, even if it lives with many weaknesses" (Apostolic Exhortation Post-Synod. Christus vivit, 239).

On World Mission Sunday, which is celebrated every year on the penultimate Sunday of October, we gratefully remember all those people who, with their life witness, help us to renew our baptismal commitment to be generous and joyful apostles of the Gospel. We especially remember those who were able to set out on the road, leaving their land and their homes so that the Gospel could reach without delay and without fear those corners of towns and cities where so many lives are thirsting for blessing.

Contemplating their missionary witness encourages us to be courageous and to insistently ask "the master to send out workers for his harvest" (Lc 10:2), because we are aware that the vocation to mission is not something of the past or a romantic memory of other times. Today, Jesus needs hearts that are capable of living their vocation as a true love story, that makes them go out to the peripheries of the world and become messengers and instruments of compassion. And it is a call that He makes to all of us, although not in the same way. Let us remember that there are peripheries that are close to us, in the center of a city, or in our own family. There is also an aspect of the universal openness of love that is not geographical but existential. Always, but especially in these times of pandemic, it is important to expand our daily capacity to widen our circles, to reach out to those whom we would not spontaneously feel part of "my world of interests," even if they are close to us (cf. Encyclical Letter, "The World of Love"). Fratelli tutti, 97). To live the mission is to venture to develop the same sentiments of Jesus Christ and to believe with Him that whoever is at my side is also my brother and sister. May his compassionate love also awaken our hearts and make us all missionary disciples.

May Mary, the first missionary disciple, increase in all the baptized the desire to be salt and light in our lands (cf. Mt5,13-14).

Rome, St. John Lateran, January 6, 2021, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.


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