02/22/2008, 00.00
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The “missionary dimension” concerns the whole Church and each Christian, says Pope

For World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Benedict XVI stresses that since the start of the Gospel story, the apostles offered people food to appease hunger and food for eternal life.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI’s message to the faithful on the occasion of the 45th World Day of Prayer for Vocations is dedicated to the “missionary dimension”, a responsibility that concerns the whole Church and each Christian. The event, which is celebrated on 13 April, focuses on the theme Vocations at the service of the Church on mission. In his note the Pope writes that the mission characterised the Church’s actions from the start. From the Gospel page that refers to the multiplication of the loaves, we may take note of those aspects which distinguish the missionary activity of a Christian community” and assume “the needs of the crowds to whom he wished to offer nourishment, but also to reveal the food ‘which endures to eternal life’.”

Today and as in yesteryears, responding to Jesus’ missionary call “means facing in prudence and simplicity every danger and even persecutions.” Yet the “Holy Spirit transforms this trial into an occasion of grace, using it so that the name of the Lord can be preached to other peoples, stretching in this way the horizons of the Christian community.” The “love of Christ must be communicated to the brothers by example and words, with all one’s life. My venerable predecessor John Paul II wrote: ‘The special vocation of missionaries ‘for life’ retains all its validity: it is the model of the Church's missionary commitment, which always stands in need of radical and total self-giving, of new and bold endeavours’ (Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, 66).”

Among those totally dedicated to the service of the Gospel, are priests, called to preach the word of God, administer the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, committed to helping the lowly, the sick, the suffering, the poor, and those who experience hardship in areas of the world where there are, at times, many who still have not had a real encounter with Jesus Christ. Missionaries announce for the first time to these people Christ’s redemptive love.

Statistics show that the number of baptized persons increases every year thanks to the pastoral work of these priests, who are wholly consecrated to the salvation of their brothers and sisters.”

Indeed evangelisation is made possible by “many men and women who, prompted by the action of the Holy Spirit, choose to live the Gospel in a radical way, professing the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. [. . .] With their continual and community prayer, contemplatives intercede without ceasing for all humanity. Religious of the active life, with their many charitable activities, bring to all a living witness of the love and mercy of God.”

For the Church to be able to continue the mission Christ put upon it, “Christian communities must never fail to provide both children and adults with constant education in the faith. It is necessary to keep alive in the faithful a committed sense of missionary responsibility and active solidarity with the peoples of the world. The gift of faith calls all Christians to co-operate in the work of evangelization. This awareness must be nourished by preaching and catechesis, by the liturgy, and by constant formation in prayer. It must grow through the practice of welcoming others, with charity and spiritual companionship, through reflection and discernment, as well as pastoral planning, of which attention to vocations must be an integral part.”

“Vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life can only flourish in a spiritual soil that is well cultivated. Christian communities that live the missionary dimension of the mystery of the Church in a profound way will never be inward looking. Mission, as a witness of divine love, becomes particularly effective when it is shared in a community, “so that the world may believe (cf Jn 17: 21).”

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