The Vatican

Francis focuses the Church's missionary action on the Eucharist

On the occasion of the 97th World Missionary Day of the Church, which will take place on October 22, Pope Francis outlined the profile of missionary disciples and of the Church's missionary action, commenting on the passage of the disciples of Emmaus, and encouraged everyone to "contribute to this missionary movement with prayer and action".

Francisco Otamendi-January 25, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: A French missionary celebrates mass with the Dayak Meratus tribe in Kalimantan, Indonesia. ©CNS/supplied by UCAN

The Message The Pope's message for the upcoming World Mission Sunday, dated on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, has three sections. The first, like the entire text, is based on the Gospel passage of the disciples of Emmaus, and recalls the "hearts that burned 'while [...] he explained the Scriptures to us'. "In mission, the Word of God enlightens and transforms the heart," the Holy Father points out.

"In the Gospel account, we perceive the transformation of the disciples from some suggestive images: the hearts that burn when Jesus explains the Scriptures, the open eyes upon recognizing him and, as a culmination, the feet that set out on the road," the Pope writes as an introduction. "Meditating on these aspects, which trace the itinerary of missionary disciples, we can renew our zeal for evangelization in today's world."

The second emphasizes the "eyes that 'opened and recognized him' in the breaking of the bread. Jesus in the Eucharist is the summit and source of the mission.

And the third emphasizes the "feet that set out on the road, with the joy of announcing the Risen Christ. The eternal youth of a Church always going forth".

"Those two disciples were confused and disillusioned, but the encounter with Christ in the Word and in the broken Bread kindled their enthusiasm to set out again for Jerusalem and announce that the Lord was truly risen," the Pope adds.

Proximity to all missionaries

The Holy Father expresses his "closeness in Christ to all missionaries throughout the world, especially to those who are going through a difficult time. The Risen Lord, dear brothers and sisters, is always with you and sees your generosity and your sacrifices for the mission of evangelization in faraway places. The sun does not shine every day of your life, but let us always remember the words of the Lord Jesus to his friends before his passion: 'In the world you will have to suffer, but take courage: I have overcome the world' (Jn 16:33).

In the final part of his message, the Roman Pontiff emphasizes that "everyone can contribute to this missionary movement with prayer and action, with the offering of money and sacrifices, and with one's own witness. The Pontifical Mission Societies are the privileged instrument to promote this missionary cooperation in the spiritual and material sphere. For this reason, the collection of donations for World Mission Day is dedicated to the Pontifical Work for the Propagation of the Faith".

Mutual cooperation and getting on the road

In addition, the Pope highlights two ideas. First, cooperation among all. "The urgency of the Church's missionary action naturally presupposes an ever closer missionary cooperation of all her members at all levels. This is an essential objective in the synodal itinerary that the Church is traveling with the key words communion, participation and mission."

Secondly, the profile of the synodal itinerary. This "itinerary is in no way a withdrawal of the Church into herself, nor a process of popular polling to decide, as one would do in a parliament, what is to be believed and practiced and what is not, according to human preferences. It is rather a setting out on a journey, like the disciples of Emmaus, listening to the Risen Lord who always comes to meet us to explain to us the meaning of the Scriptures and to break the Bread for us, so that we can carry out, with the power of the Holy Spirit, his mission in the world".

The Eucharistic Bread, missionary action par excellence

Referring to the Eucharist - the Pope cites Jesus as "Jesus the Eucharist" - Francis writes that "breaking the Eucharistic Bread, which is Christ himself, is the missionary action par excellence, because the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church's life and mission".

And he expressly quotes the recently deceased Benedict XVIPope Benedict XVI recalled: 'We cannot keep to ourselves the love that we celebrate in the Sacrament [of the Eucharist]. It demands by its very nature that it be communicated to all. What the world needs is the love of God, to encounter Christ and to believe in him. For this reason, the Eucharist is not only the source and summit of the Church's life; it is also the source and summit of her mission: "A Church that is authentically Eucharistic is a missionary Church" (Apostolic Exhortation, no. 3). Sacramentum caritatis, 84)".

Pope Francis goes on to describe the elements necessary to carry out the mission: "To bear fruit, we must remain united to him (cf. Jn. 15:4-9). And this union is realized through daily prayer, particularly in adoration, being in silence before the presence of the Lord, who remains with us in the Eucharist. The missionary disciple, lovingly cultivating this communion with Christ, can become a mystic in action. May our heart always yearn for the company of Jesus, sighing the vehement request of the two Emmaus pilgrims, especially when night falls: "Stay with us, Lord" (cf. Lk 24:29).

A cheerful advertisement

"As those two disciples 'told the others what had happened to them on the road' (Lk 24:35)," the Holy Father continues, "so too our proclamation will be a joyful narration of Christ the Lord, of his life, of his passion, death and resurrection, of the wonders that his love has worked in our lives.

Finally, the Pope encourages the Catholic world: "Let us also set out again, enlightened by the encounter with the Risen Lord and animated by his Spirit. Let us set out with fervent hearts, eyes open, feet on the way, to enkindle other hearts with the Word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has given to humanity. Holy Mary of the Way, Mother of the missionary disciples of Christ and Queen of the missions, pray for us".

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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