VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis urged Catholics around the world to “listen to the call to mission” Sunday.
In his message for World Mission Day, released May 31, the pope invited people to discern their mission within the Church.
He said: “Let us ask ourselves: are we prepared to welcome the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to listen to the call to mission, whether in our life as married couples or as consecrated persons or those called to the ordained ministry, and in all the everyday events of life?”
“Are we willing to be sent forth at any time or place to witness to our faith in God the merciful Father, to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, to share the divine life of the Holy Spirit by building up the Church?”
World Mission Day -- also known as World Mission Sunday -- is celebrated annually on the next-to-last Sunday in October. This year it falls on October 18. The day is marked by a collection for the Pontifical Mission Societies, a group of Catholic missionary societies under the jurisdiction of the pope.
In his message dated May 31, Pentecost Sunday, the pope reflected on the theme of this year’s observance, “Here am I, send me,” taken from Isaiah 6:8.
He wrote: “In this year marked by the suffering and challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the missionary journey of the whole Church continues in light of the words found in the account of the calling of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here am I, send me.’ This is the ever new response to the Lord’s question: ‘Whom shall I send?’”
“This invitation from God’s merciful heart challenges both the Church and humanity as a whole in the current world crisis.”
He said that the suffering caused by the pandemic should spur Catholics to serve God and their neighbor.
“The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others,” he said.
Describing Jesus as “the Father’s Missionary,” the pope explained that through his death and resurrection Jesus called us to take part in his mission of love.
He said: “The Church, the universal sacrament of God’s love for the world, continues the mission of Jesus in history and sends us everywhere so that, through our witness of faith and the proclamation of the Gospel, God may continue to manifest his love and in this way touch and transform hearts, minds, bodies, societies, and cultures in every place and time.”
Pope Francis noted that the coronavirus pandemic presented a challenge for the Church’s mission.
“Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay at home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others,” he said.
“And prayer, in which God touches and moves our hearts, should make us ever more open to the need of our brothers and sisters for dignity and freedom, as well as our responsibility to care for all creation.”
“The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday.”
“In all of this, God’s question: ‘Whom shall I send?’ is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: ‘Here am I, send me!’”
In conclusion, the pope implored the Virgin Mary, “Star of Evangelization and Comforter of the Afflicted, missionary disciple of her Son Jesus,” to intercede for humanity.