20th October 2019
World Mission Sunday
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
Pope Francis has invited us to celebrate this month of October as an Extraordinary Month of Mission and this weekend we celebrate World Mission Day.
I don’t know what do you do when you want to distract yourself from doing some pressing task (but you still want to maintain the illusion of productivity) but I go to the Amazon website on my iPad and search for new book titles.
So on Monday I typed in the words ‘Christian Mission’ on the Amazon website and within seconds had a list that went on for over 400 pages of books with ‘Christian Mission’ somewhere in the title.
I obviously wasn’t going to be able to do any justice to this list before the weekend but while I was browsing, I was happy to come across a video on YouTube posted by Pope Francis three weeks ago in which he says:
‘Today, a new impulse to the Church’s missionary activity is needed to face the challenge of proclaiming Jesus and his death and resurrection. Reaching the peripheries—the human, cultural, and religious settings still foreign to the Gospel: this is what we call the missio ad gentes. We must also remember that the soul of the Church’s mission is prayer. In this extraordinary missionary month, let us pray that the Holy Spirit may engender a new missionary spring for all those baptized and sent by Christ’s Church.”
If we’re looking to sum up the mission in one sentence, we need go no further than a verse from Mark’s Gospel (Mk 16:15): “Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to all creation”
This missionary mandate touches each one of us personally: Each of us is a mission to the world; we are baptised and sent; sent to proclaim the good news of the Risen Lord to the world.
I am a mission; you are a mission; every baptized man and woman is a mission. That is the purpose and reason for our life on earth.
The Church is the servant of the mission. It is not the Church that makes the mission, but the mission that makes the Church.
The dismissal at the end of Mass is: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” That’s our mission.
And we are sustained and nourished in our mission by prayer. Prayer is the most intimate relationship we have with God. Prayer is the heart of our mission and it is prayer that keeps our mission at the centre of our lives.
In the opening verse of today’s Gospel “Jesus told his disciples a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Lk 18:1)
The parable tells of a widowed woman who has been denied the right to justice by a corrupt judge. The judge would have been appointed by Rome or by Herod and had little sympathy for the rights of a poor Jewish woman.
The dishonest judge is worn down by the widow’s ceaseless pleas for justice. He has no real interest in justice but he gives in to her because of her persistence.
The message of the parable is that if a crooked judge who respects no one will grant justice to a widow because of her persistence, how much more will a loving and just Father God give to us, his beloved, who persistently ask in prayer.
Only through perseverance in prayer can we make progress in our spiritual lives and become fully the people God has created us to be.
Prayer is not always easy but then sometimes our attempts at prayer are a little misguided.
Sometimes we try praying every day because we know that it’s what God wants of us. We put in the time out of a sense of obligation. If our motivation does not go beyond a feeling of obligation, we are not likely to persevere. Prayer becomes difficult and we’re likely to give up.
Or we might only pray when we desperately need something from God. Our desperation brings us to our knees and we storm heaven with our petitions. If our motivation does not go beyond a cry for things to be done as we want them to be done, we’re likely to stop praying once we’re either happy that our prayers have been answered or stop praying because we’re not satisfied with God’s response.
Prayers don’t and can’t change God – they change us.
We know within our deepest being what needs to change in our lives.
We know what needs recrafting or reshaping in us and when we take that to God in prayer, we are more likely to grow closer to God than we will through obligation or anxiety. And we’re less likely to lose heart.
Praying every day means talking to God anywhere at any time about anything.
We pray to love more and judge less.
We pray to nourish and sustain us on our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Today’s gospel concludes with a frightening question from Jesus.
He asks “ When the Son of man comes will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus is not asking for a yes or no answer but rather urging his followers to preserve to the end, remaining faithful to prayer.
Without prayer, the terrifying prospect of an atheist world becomes a real possibility.
In this coming week, I believe that every one of us will have an opportunity, somewhere at some time, to proclaim our faith to someone.
For each of us the circumstances and situation will be different; often unexpected.
The way in which we reveal our love for Jesus and his Church will also be different for each of us.
But if we’re open to this possibility, we’ll recognise the opportunity when it comes; an opportunity undoubtedly prompted by the Holy Spirit.
We are baptised and sent.
Let us pray for the courage and humility to be Christ’s missionaries in our families, work places and communities; glorifying the Lord by our lives.