Pope calls for a new missionary movement, like at the dawn of Christianity
Francis’s message for World Mission Day 2024, which will be celebrated on 20 October, is centred on the Gospel call to "Go and invite everyone to the banquet.” While the world offers “consumerism, selfish comfort, the accumulation of wealth and individualism, the Gospel calls everyone to the divine banquet, marked by joy”. In the post-Covid period, the invitation is to rediscover the Eucharist to reawaken the missionary spirit.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Vatican Press Office today released Pope Francis’s message for World Mission Day 2024, which will be celebrated on Sunday, 20 October.
In it, the pontiff urges every baptised person, according to their own condition of life, to be “ready to set out anew, each according to our state in life, to inaugurate a new missionary movement, as at the dawn of Christianity!"
With this in mind, “We continue to pray and we thank God for the new and numerous missionary vocations for the task of evangelization to the ends of the earth. [. . .] Let us not forget that every Christian is called to take part in this universal mission by offering his or her own witness to the Gospel in every context”.
The message, dated 25 January, the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, is titled “Go and invite everyone to the banquet” (Mt 22:9), inspired by the Gospel parable of the wedding banquet, a passage that for Francis highlights some important aspects of evangelisation, starting with the verbs “Go and invite”.
For the Holy Father, the mission “is a tireless going out to all men and women, in order to invite them to encounter God and enter into communion with him. [. . .] God, great in love and rich in mercy, constantly sets out to encounter all men and women, and to call them to the happiness of his kingdom, even in the face of their indifference or refusal.”
“The Church, for her part, in fidelity to the mission she has received from the Lord, will continue to go to the ends of the earth, to set out over and over again, without ever growing weary or losing heart in the face of difficulties and obstacles.”
“I take this opportunity to thank all those missionaries who, in response to Christ’s call, have left everything behind to go far from their homeland and bring the Good News to places where people have not yet received it, or received it only recently.
“Dear friends, your generous dedication is a tangible expression of your commitment to the mission ad gentes that Jesus entrusted to his disciples: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28:19).”
Taking up an idea that he has often stressed since he wrote the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Francis explains that, “Today’s drama in the Church is that Jesus keeps knocking on the door, but from within, so that we will let him out! Often, we end up being an ‘imprisoning’ Church which does not let the Lord out, which keeps him as ‘its own’, whereas the Lord came for mission and wants us to be missionaries.”
The mission is not ours as such, but is an invitation that we are called to carry on. It must have “the same ‘style’ of the One who is being preached” without “pressuring, coercing or proselytizing, but with closeness, compassion and tenderness,” thus “reflecting God’s own way of being and acting.”
In the parable, the king asks the servants to deliver an invitation to a banquet for his son's wedding. Francis explains it from an eschatological perspective.
“It is an image of ultimate salvation in the Kingdom of God, fulfilled even now by the coming of Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God, who has given us life in abundance”.
“We know that among the first Christians, [the] missionary zeal had a powerful eschatological dimension. They sensed the urgency of the preaching of the Gospel. Today too it is important to maintain this perspective, since it helps us to evangelize with the joy of those who know that ‘the Lord is near’ and with the hope of those who are pressing forward towards the goal”.
“While the world sets before us the various ‘banquets’ of consumerism, selfish comfort, the accumulation of wealth and individualism, the Gospel calls everyone to the divine banquet, marked by joy, sharing, justice and fraternity in communion with God and with others.”
Such fullness of life is already anticipated in the banquet of the Eucharist, for “The Eucharistic renewal that many local Churches are laudably promoting in the post-Covid era will also be essential for reviving the missionary spirit in each member of the faithful.”
“In this year devoted to prayer in preparation for the Jubilee of 2025, I wish to encourage all to deepen their commitment above all to take part in the celebration of Mass and to pray for the Church’s mission of evangelization.”
In ending his message, Francis emphasises how the king's message in the parable is addressed to “everyone”.
“Today, in a world torn apart by divisions and conflicts, Christ’s Gospel remains the gentle yet firm voice that calls individuals to encounter one another, to recognize that they are brothers and sisters, and to rejoice in harmony amid diversity.”
“Christ’s missionary disciples have always had a heartfelt concern for all persons, whatever their social or even moral status.” And the mission for everyone requires everyone’s commitment.
For the pope, “We need to continue our journey towards a fully synodal and missionary Church in the service of the Gospel. Synodality is essentially missionary and, vice versa, mission is always synodal.”
To this end, the pontiff urges all the dioceses of the world to turn to the services of the Pontifical Mission Societies, reminding everyone that “the collections of World Mission Day in all the local Churches are entirely destined to the universal fund of solidarity that the Pontifical Society of the Propagation of the Faith then distributes in the Pope’s name for the needs of all the Church’s missions.”