This year, the event will be held on 22 October. In his message titled “Hearts on fire, feet on the move”, the pope tells missionaries, who are experiencing a tough time at present, that “The Risen Lord is always with you. He sees your generosity.” He urges them to heed the Word of God in mission and break the Eucharist bread, “a work of mission par excellence”; otherwise, they just pass on to others their “own ideas and projects”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Vatican Press Office today released Pope Francis’s message for World Mission Day 2023. In it, the pontiff says that, “Today more than ever, our human family, wounded by so many situations of injustice, so many divisions and wars, is in need of the Good News of peace and salvation in Christ.”
Titled “Hearts on fire, feet on the move” (Lk 24:13-35), the message announces the event that the Church will celebrate on Sunday, 22 October. It also contains a special word that expresses closeness “in Christ to all the men and women missionaries in the world, especially to those enduring any kind of hardship. Dear friends, the Risen Lord is always with you. He sees your generosity and the sacrifices you are making for the mission of evangelisation in distant lands.”
“The Lord is greater than all our problems, above all if we encounter them in our mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the world. For in the end, this mission is his and we are nothing more than his humble co-workers, ‘useless servants’.
“Not every day of our lives is serene and unclouded, but let us never forget the words of the Lord Jesus to his friends before his Passion: ‘In the world you will have tribulations, but be courageous: I have conquered the world!’ (Jn 16:33).”
The pope’s reflection is marked by three images from the Gospel passage about the disciples at Emmaus: hearts burning for the Scriptures explained by Jesus, eyes open in recognising him and, as a highlight, walking feet.
“Today as then,” writes the pope, “the Risen Lord remains close to his missionary disciples and walks beside them, particularly when they feel disoriented, discouraged, fearful of the mystery of iniquity that surrounds them and seeks to overwhelm them.”
It is his Word that illuminates and transforms the heart of the mission. “It follows that knowledge of Scripture is important for the Christian life, and even more so for the preaching of Christ and his Gospel. Otherwise, what are you passing on to others if not your own ideas and projects? A cold heart can never make other hearts burn!
“So let us always be willing to let ourselves be accompanied by the Risen Lord as he explains to us the meaning of the Scriptures. May he make our hearts burn within us; may he enlighten and transform us, so that we can proclaim his mystery of salvation to the world with the power and wisdom that come from his Spirit.”
It was, however, before the broken bread that the disciples’ eyes opened to recognise Jesus. “Christ, who breaks the bread, now becomes the bread broken, shared with the disciples and consumed by them. He is seen no longer, for now he has entered the hearts of the disciples, to make them burn all the more, and this prompts them to set out immediately to share with everyone their unique experience of meeting the Risen Lord.”
Francis notes that “breaking our material bread with the hungry in the name of Christ is already a work of Christian mission,” but “breaking of the Eucharistic bread, which is Christ himself, [is] a work of mission par excellence, since the Eucharist is the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church.”
Once the Lord is recognised comes a desire to get back on the journey. “Therefore, the primary and principal resource of the mission are those persons who have come to know the risen Christ in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, who carry his fire in their heart and his light in their gaze. They can bear witness to the life that never dies, even in the most difficult of situations and in the darkest of moments.”
Francis highlights the “perennial validity of the missio ad gentes, the mission entrusted to the Church by the risen Lord to evangelise all individuals and peoples, even to the ends of the earth”. Citing Evangelii Gaudium apostolic exhortation, he says that “everyone has the right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to announce it without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but as one who shares a joy, signals a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet”.
Everyone can contribute to the missionary movement through prayers and action, offerings of money and suffering, with one's own witness. “The Pontifical Mission Societies are the privileged means of fostering this missionary cooperation on both the spiritual and material levels.”
Finally, the pope notes how "mission" is one of the central words of the synodal process underway throughout the world. “This journey is certainly not a turning of the Church in upon herself; nor is it a referendum about what we ought to believe and practise, nor a matter of human preferences. Rather, it is a process of setting out on the way and, like the disciples of Emmaus, listening to the risen Lord. For he always comes among us to explain the meaning of the Scriptures and to break bread for us, so that we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, carry out his mission in the world.”
In conclusion, “Let us set out again with burning hearts, with our eyes open and our feet in motion. Let us set out to make other hearts burn with the word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has bestowed upon all humanity.”