06/02/2006, 00.00
VATICAN

Pope: purpose of mission is to spread

In his message for the World Mission Day, Benedict XVI stresses that "if it is not guided by charity, if it does not spring, that is, from a profound act of divine love," mission, the primary task of the ecclesial community, "risks reducing itself to mere philanthropic and social activity."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) --  Bringing to every corner of the world "God's love that gives life to the world" is the ultimate purpose of mission, "the primary task" of all Christians.  Because "if it is not guided by charity, if it does not spring, that is, from a profound act of divine love," mission "risks reducing itself to mere philanthropic and social activity."  In his message, released today, for the 80th World Mission Day, the theme of which is: "Charity, soul of mission," Benedict XVI stresses the missionary perspective of the question of God's "caritas," around which he centred his first encyclical.

"The love that God nutures for every person," the Pope in fact writes, "makes up the heart of the experience and announcement of the Gospel, and those who welcome it, in turn, become witnesses of it."  "The mandate to spread the announcement of this love was entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles after his resurrection, and the Apostles, internally transformed the day of Pentecost by the power of the Holy Spirit, began to bear witness to the dead and Risen Lord.  Since then, the Church continues this same mission, which constitutes an essential and permanent task for all believers."

"Every Christian community," as can be read in the Message for the World Day which will be celebrated on October 22, "is therefore called upon to make God, who is Love, known."

"Of his love," the Pope goes on to say, "God permeates all of creation and human history.  In the beginning, man emerged from the hands of the Creator as fruit of an initiative of love.  Sin then obscured in him the divine mark.  Deceived by evil, our first parents Adam and Eve did not respect the relationship of trust with their Lord, giving in to the temptation of evil that instilled in them the suspicion that He was a rival and wanted to limit their freedom.  Therefore, they preferred themselves to freely-given divine love, convinced that, in that way, they would be affirming their free will.  The consequence was that they ended up loosing their original happiness and tasted the bitterness of the sadness of sin and of death.  God, however, did not abandon them and promised salvation to them and their descendants, announcing the sending of His only Son, Jesus, who would reveal, in the fullness of time, His fatherly love, a love capable of redeeming every human creature from the slavery of evil and of death."

"On the eve of his passion," the papal message continues, "Jesus leaves as his testament to the disciples, gathered in the Upper Room to celebrate Easter, the 'new commandment of love -- mandatum novum': 'This I command you: love one another' (Jn 15:17).  The brotherly love that the Lord asks of his 'friends' has its source in the fatherly love of God.  The Apostle John observes: 'everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God' (1 Jn 4:7).  Thus, to love according to God, one must live in Him and by Him: God is man's first dwelling place and only he who dwells in Him burns with a fire of divine charity which is able to set the world ablaze.  Is this not the Church's mission in all times?  Is it then not difficult to understand that authentic missionary solicitude, the primary task of the ecclesial Community, is tied to faithfulness to divine love, and this applies to every single Christian, every local community, the particular Churches and the entire People of God.  Is it precisely the awareness of this shared mission that invigorates the generous availability of the disciples of Christ to accomplish works of human and spiritual promotion that give witness to, as our beloved John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio, 'the soul of all missionary activity: love, which has been and remains the driving force of mission, and is also "the sole criterion for judging what is to be done or not done, changed or not changed. It is the principle which must direct every action, and end to which that action must be directed. When we act with a view to charity, or are inspired by charity, nothing is unseemly and everything is good' (no. 60).  To be missionaries thus means loving God with all of oneself to the point of giving, if necessary, one's life for Him.  How many priests, religious and laypeople, even in our own times, rendered to Him the supreme witness of love through martyrdom!  To be missionaries is to bow down, like the good Samaritan, to the needs of all, especially the poorest and neediest, because those who love with Christ's heart do not look for their own interest, but solely the glory of the Father and the good of their neighbours.  Here lies the secret of apostolic fruitfulness of missionary action, which crosses borders and cultures, reaches people and spreads to the farthest reaches of the world."

In concluding the message, which carries the date of April 29, Benedict XVI expresses the hope that "World Mission Day is a useful occasion for understanding always better that the witness of love, the soul of mission, concerns everyone.  Serving the Gospel is not, in fact, to be considered a solitary adventure, but a task shared by every community.  Alongside those who are on the front lines of the frontiers of evangelization  -- and my thoughts here go with recognition to missionaries -- many others, children, young people and adults, with their prayer and cooperation, in different ways contribute to the spread of the Kingdom of God on earth.  The hope is that this participation grows ever more thanks to the contribution of everyone." (FP)

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