October 19, 2014 (World Mission Sunday)

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THIRD SUNDAY OF OCTOBER
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DATE: October 19, 2014 (World Mission Sunday: Ordinary Time: 29th)
THEME: Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes!
READINGS: Is 45:1. 4-6 / Ps 96:1. 3. 4-5. 7-8. 9-10 / 1 Thes 1:1-5 / Mt 22:15-21
REFLECTIONS: Cuyos, Kroeger, and Recepcion

Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes! – I

Father Stephen Cuyos, MSC

I write this reflection on a mobile gadget.  My use of a handheld device to write about things divine is becoming an everyday occurrence for many people today.  The proliferation of mobile technologies has profoundly transformed how we fulfill our mission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the fulfillment of our God-given mission today depends largely on how well we use mobile technology and social media for evangelization.

We have been so used to one-way evangelization (through homilies, classroom instruction, books, and encyclicals) that we tend to think that it is the only effective way to spread the Word of God.   But to today’s hyper-connected generation, this type of evangelization is often unattractive and boring.  They want their evangelizers to use the technologies that they already use in their everyday life—mobile phones, tablets, and social media.  They also want their evangelizers to connect with them through the activities they already love doing online—posting tweets, uploading photos, sharing videos, and playing games.  If we are to be effective in fulfilling the mission God has given us in today’s world, we need ubiquitous access to digital technologies and utilize them in all our evangelization pursuits.

Jesus called us to be “fishers of men” (Mt 4:19) and since today’s proverbial fish are tech-savvy and are constantly connected online, the best way to catch them is to go and meet them where they are—in social media.  Pope Francis himself considers the internet a “gift from God.”  And, like other divine gifts, web-based technologies must be used to communicate the love of God to people.

As communicators of God’s love, we need to find creative and meaningful ways of utilizing tweets, photos, videos and games to rekindle the desire and the moral obligation of the faithful to take a joyful part in mission ad gentes.  We need to find new and inventive ways to harness the power of social media in order to make God’s Word viral and a trendy topic online.  We need to harness the full power of social media technologies to make God known and loved on a global scale and in real time.  For only by doing so are we truly able to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).  May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere!

NOTE: Father Stephen Cuyos is a member of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  He is currently the training and production specialist of the Communication Foundation for Asia in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

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Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes! – II
Father James H. Kroeger, MM

Blessed Paul VI: Pope of Evangelization

Today is World Mission Sunday, and Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) is being beatified in Rome.  The choice of the date—Mission Sunday—is significant!  First, on Mission Sunday, the Church focuses on her missionary vocation and identity.  And, when elected in 1963 after the death of Saint John XXIII, the new pope specifically chose the name “Paul” because he saw himself preaching the Gospel to the whole world, following Saint Paul’s missionary dynamism.  Secondly, this date marks the close of a special Synod of Bishops on the family; it was Paul VI who established the synod of bishops in 1965 to assist the Church in both reading and interpreting the signs of the times.

Missionary Initiatives.  Aside from expressing his “core identity” with the chosen name “Paul,” Giovanni Montini accomplished much to bring the Gospel message to contemporary humanity.  Sharing John XXIII’s vision of Church renewal, Pope Paul successfully concluded Vatican II and systematically implemented its missionary vision.  In addition, Paul VI presented his “dialogical” vision of the Church in his first encyclical Ecclesiam Suam (1964).  He established the special Vatican office, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, on Pentecost Sunday 1964.

Paul, the missionary pope, initiated papal travels, literally covering the globe.  His most extensive missionary journey in November-December 1970 brought him to Asia with visits to eight countries.  While in Manila he met with 180 Asian bishops, a pivotal event in the foundation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).  In addition, Paul VI vigorously promoted the growth of authentic, inculturated, local Churches.

Evangelii Nuntiandi.  Pope Paul will always be remembered for his 1975 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), Evangelization in the Modern World.  This was the first papal document to flow from a synod (the 1974 world synod focused on the theme of evangelization).  This beautiful document [see the special “mission catechesis” in this booklet], as fresh today as when it was written, asserts that: (1) evangelization is the vocation proper to the Church; (2) the Church’s mission continues the mission of Jesus; (3) evangelization is a multi-faceted reality; and, (4) evangelization includes a commitment to full human development and social justice.

Paul VI asserted: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church….  Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.  She exists in order to evangelize” (EN 14).  “For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all strata of humanity” (EN 18).
Pope Francis’ Affirmation.  Our present pope draws extensively upon the missionary vision of Paul VI; he quotes EN thirteen times in Evangelii Gaudium.  From his earliest days as pope, Francis regularly speaks of EN, noting that Paul’s words “are as timely as if they had been written yesterday.”  He described EN as “the greatest pastoral document that has ever been written to this day”; on another occasion Francis said: “Still to this day it is the most important post-Conciliar pastoral document, which hasn’t been surpassed.  We should always go back to it … [because it] is a great source of inspiration” [refer to the “mission catechesis” provided in this booklet].

Conclusion.  Popes Paul VI and Francis share several common perspectives.  “Let us preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (EN 80); “let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm” (EG 80); “let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization” (EG 83); “let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor” (EG 109).  All Christians are challenged to be “evangelized evangelizers” (cf. EN 15) who are truly “missionary disciples” (EG 120); their spirituality must reflect “the fervor of the saints” (EN 80) and emerge from “a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” (EG 3).  Popes Paul and Francis are truly “kindred spirits”—aflame with the fire of evangelization.  On this Mission Sunday—and always—try to catch the same “Gospel Fire”!

NOTE: Father James Kroeger, MM, teaches mission theology at Loyola School of Theology, East Asian Pastoral Institute, and Mother of Life Catechetical Center, all in Metro Manila.

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Mission: Rekindling the Desire for Joyful Participation in Mission ad gentes! – III

Father Andrew Recepcion

Being Sent as Agents of Renewal in Society

The context of the Gospel indicates that people during the time of Jesus had a distorted understanding of God in relation to society.  Jesus’ wisdom, however, led his believers to realize that there is no dichotomy between earthly reality and spiritual reality.  On the contrary, Jesus affirmed that there is a hierarchy of values in this world, but God is the only absolute value.

Mission today will have to help people find a new harmony of life in God.  It is a constant struggle for many Christians to be consistent in living with and for Jesus every moment.  It is important to highlight how Christian life can be perceived as a compartmentalized existence where the practice of faith is confined to Sunday obligation; the rest of the week, that is, from Monday to Saturday is for earthly activities that have nothing to do with God.   When one lives a compartmentalized Christian existence, there is no joy and meaning in daily life.  Christianity fails to inspire discipleship in Christ; it fails to attract to Christ those who are at the peripheries of our Christian communities.  Thus, Pope Francis invites us to experience mission in a new way “by being seized ever more by the love of Jesus” and by sharing that love “marked by the fire of the passion for the Kingdom of God” (Papal Message: World Mission Sunday 2014).

I was struck by the sharing of one of our lay missionaries who felt that when she committed her life to full-time mission work, she felt a new enthusiasm to go to Mass daily.  In the past, before her mission commitment, she simply participated in the Sunday Mass out of obligation for fear of committing a sin.  Her daily life was reduced to routine of work.  Her participation in the daily Mass, however, made her encounter Jesus personally and this experience made a difference in the way she taught her students; this made her ready to welcome every difficulty in her life with serenity.  She felt more strongly the love of God in her life.  It is this personal love of Jesus that gave her the passion to work for mission.

In the present order of things, it seems quite difficult for many lay men and women to live out their missionary vocation in the worlds of politics, entertainment, media, economy, sports, education, and so on.  Igino Giordani, an Italian politician whose cause for beatification has started, said that politics could either be a jumping board to heaven or a strainer to hell.  I think his point underlines the importance of finding God even in politics, of discovering God’s presence in the affairs of the world.  Mission is not only about geographical territories but also about human frontiers that need Jesus Christ, that groan for redemption.

It is about time to take seriously the words of Jesus as a reminder that when we forget God in our society, we end up making humans into God.  Let us beg the Lord to make us missionary disciples who do not have to go to distant places to carry out Christ’s mission.

Mission starts in our homes, in our work places, in our associations, in our government institutions, even in our daily commute by following the traffic laws.  Mission is now!

NOTE:  Father Andrew Reception is the Mission Director of the Archdiocese of Caceres.

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