Mission Sunday and the Dream of Pope Francis
I have a dream!
St. Vincent was not Martin Luther King. He didn’t give a speech that would be echoed for decades. But he did live a dream that is alive after four centuries. And it was a dream that embodied the Popes’ dream for Mission Sunday.
Vincent’s original dream seemed to be to find comfort for himself and his family. Then in his middle age he began to wake up to Jesus’ mission and dream. Jesus dreamt of bringing good news to the poor. Jesus spent his life showing the people of his time that God loved them. His life and actions were good news for the poor.
Vincent caught that dream from the Jesus he met in his reading of the Gospels. The Jesus who said of himself that he came to fulfill the dream Isaias of bringing good news to the poor. Standing in the midst of the elders he said that was his mission.
We know how Vincent spent the rest of his life working to fulfill God’s dream for humankind. He was a missionary of the good news of God’s kingdom.
He not only realized that he had a mission from God to walk in the footsteps of Christ the Evangelizer of the Poor. He instinctively realized that the laity constituted a sleeping giant. He especially realized that women could be a powerful force in fulfilling God’s dream. As they say, the rest is a history that we know so well. We are part of that dream and a continuation of that dream today.
Closer to home, one hundred years ago standing in this very pulpit, Fr. Thomas Augustine Judge CM was preaching that every Catholic was an apostle, He founded three communities known as the Missionary Cenacle Family committed to that dream. That dream is still embodied in Fr. Judge HS not far from here.
Pope Francis’ Dream
Pope Francis also has a dream. He frequently uses the image of God’s dream.
“I dream of a ‘missionary option, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world, rather than for her self-preservation.” 27
Of this Mission Sunday he specifically writes
“This divine life is not a product for sale – we do not practice proselytism – but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission.
We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf. Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone. God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation.” (cf. 1 Tim 2:4; Lumen Gentium, 48).
It was also the dream of John Paul II who once said: “All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion”. Turning in on itself and away from is mission.
The dream of Mission Sunday
The theme set for Mission Sunday 2019 is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.”
He writes … “Celebrating this month will help us first to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ, a faith graciously bestowed on us in baptism. Our filial relationship with God is not something simply private, but always in relation to the Church.
Through our communion with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we, together with so many of our other brothers and sisters, are born to new life.”
Let me put it another way. God truly loves us, each and everyone one of us. If we don’t understand that then we don’t understand God.
We can’t understand the mission of the church community. We as a people, not just individuals, are to be the sign of that love in the concrete circumstances of our lives.
He really wants us to love as he loved. “Do this in memory of me!” He wants us to wash one another’s feet as God has washed our feet. Yes, God has washed our feet and… tells us to do this in memory of me.
That is our mission in the world!
How do we live that mission.
We don’t live it by just talking about it or reading about. Or pulling out our heavenly discount card.
We live it when our JOY is rooted in the awareness of God’s love and we want others to share that joy.
If God is anything, God is filled with joy. Jesus says it directly – these things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
They will know we are Christians by our love, by our contagious joy.
True joy is contagious. Christianity is not taught. It is caught.
Some 75 years a great catechist, Johannes Hoffinger, asked if we are Easter People why do we so often go around looking like people in need of an aspirin? At one level the answer is clear. We are ourselves not aware of being love.
- The challenge for many of us on this Mission Sunday is to allow ourselves to believe that God really loves us and is not an angry old man or a king demanding payment of debts.
- The challenge for us is to love as God loves.
- The challenge is show that joy I our lives. Showing the joy we have in knowing we are loved is greatest missionary tactic.
We live that Mission when we are contagious with joy.
Unfortunately, we have a distorted notion of Joy
We have often substituted contingent joy for courageous joy.
Contingent joy is always dependent upon a circumstance. Contingent joy says I’ll be happy when…or…I’ll be happy if. I’ll be happy when I have a new house or a new spouse. I’ll be happy when I’m healed or when I’m home. Contingent joy depends upon the right circumstance. Since we cannot control every circumstance, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
Envision the person who buys into the lie of contingent joy. As a young person they assume, if I get a car, I’ll be happy. They get the car, but the car wears out. They look for joy elsewhere. If I get married, I’ll be happy. So they get married, then disappointed. The spouse cannot deliver. This goes on through a series of attempts. If I get the new job… if I can retire… If we just had a baby. In each case, joy comes, then diminishes.
By the time this person reaches old age, he has ridden a roller coaster of hope and disappointment. He becomes sour and fearful.
Contingent joy turns us into wounded people.
But death, failure, betrayal, sickness, disappointment. They cannot take your joy, because they cannot take your Jesus. And Jesus promised, “No one will take away your joy” (Jn. 16:22). No matter what our circumstances we know the joy that God loves us.
We will understand the dream behind Mission Sunday.
When “we are baptized into God’s love and sent”.
- our lives manifest the joy that comes from
- knowing that we are truly loved and that
- we become in turn sign and sacrament of that love.
Then we will become missionaries whose lives attract.
This is God’s dream. It is the dream of Isaias, Jesus, Vincent, Thomas Judge and all the recent popes.
Is that our dream? Our mission is to bring glad tiding of joy to a world desperately longing for hope.
Do we recognize and accept that mission?