Pope Francis has called for this month of October to be an Extraordinary Missionary Month.
His letter is called ‘Baptized and Sent. The Church of Christ on Mission to the World’. Mission is all about being sent, looking outward, seeing with the eyes and vision of Christ. We all have that mandate with the gift of baptism. One could say in the light of this Sunday’s reading from Luke 17: 5-10, that it is our duty as servants of the Gospel. And that we should never be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord as St Paul reminds us today in his letter to Timothy.
When it comes to being a missionary, I don’t know about you, but I do feel awkward sometimes in knowing what to say in some contexts. Sometimes I don’t say anything. I do wonder though if this is always the best course of action. It sounds more like inaction doesn’t it?
Recently I was in a restaurant and bar for a meal with friends in Ireland. I was asked to sing, which is not that unusual over there, and I did but then afterwards a woman - who was somewhat inebriated - asked me to sing ‘Panis Angelicus’. She was a ‘former Catholic’ but loved the traditional songs she grew up with. She began to announce that we don’t believe in any of this anymore. I couldn’t help but contradict her and say, ‘Yes we do.’ Sadly, she wasn’t in any fit state to really have a fruitful discussion with me but given her background, and if circumstances had been different, there would have been a lot we could have shared on and perhaps have found common ground. I didn’t know her story and why she had come to her particular views, but I know she is not alone.
I think something about being missionary is at least being open to the conversations with those who no longer believe as they once did. The prayer of St Francis comes to mind, ‘that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand’. Keeping doors open is a much better approach than closing them I believe.
Pope Francis implores us as a Church not to be gazing in on ourselves or to be settled and satisfied in our comfort zones but ‘to be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel. In these, our troubled times, rent by the tragedies of war and menaced by the baneful tendency to accentuate differences and to incite conflict, may the Good News that in Jesus forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear, be proclaimed to the world with renewed fervour, and instil trust and hope in everyone’….. ‘May the love for the Church’s mission, which is “a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people” grow ever stronger’!
Seeing the young African American man on the news embrace the woman police officer in the court room who had shot and murdered his brother was a powerful image of forgiveness and an example of what the Pope is speaking about.
I think the song ‘Go Out, Go Now’ from ‘Making Music to Your Name’ fits the missionary theme for today.
Go out, go now
Live the love we have witnessed
Go out, go now and live what we’ve become, what we believe,
Go out, go now.