“The Church is on mission in the world. Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to see all things in their proper perspective, as we view the world with God’s own eyes and heart…This missionary mandate touches us personally …every baptized man and woman is a mission…to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love” –Pope Francis
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
From Tuesday, September 17–Sunday 22, the first Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) Mission Congress of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) will be held in T&T.
Pope Francis has declared October 2019 as an Extraordinary Missionary Month. In his message for World Mission Day 2019 he “asked that the whole Church revive her missionary awareness and commitment as we commemorate the centenary of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud of Pope Benedict XV (November 30, 1919).
“This divine life is not a product for sale—we do not practise proselytism—but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission. We received this gift freely and we share it freely (cf Mt 10:8), without excluding anyone…A Church that presses forward to the farthest frontiers requires a constant and ongoing missionary conversion.” The aim is to renew/foster greater awareness of the Church’s missionary commitment.
The title of the Holy Father’s Message is the same as that of October’s Missionary Month and the AEC’s Mission Congress: Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World.
Pope Benedict XV reminds us in Maximum Illud that before Jesus returned to His Father, the last thing He commanded His disciples to do was: “ ‘Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to all creation’ (Mk 16:15).” The missio ad gentes, part of our Christian vocation, contributes to our ongoing conversion as Catholics.
During this Mission Congress, let us reflect on our own commitment to mission, on why the missionary zeal of many Catholics is flagging, and seek to devise pastoral strategies to address the many challenges that face us in a world that is becoming more and more secular.
The Catholic Church has been present in T&T since the 15th century. Although the number of Catholics in our Archdiocese and in some dioceses in the region has fallen over the years, the Church is still alive and present, and the 19 territories in the AEC are served by 19 bishops. But they are not the only ones on mission.
Each of us baptised Catholics must play our part to build God’s Kingdom of truth, love, justice, freedom, and forgiveness—the pillars of peace, here on earth. Let’s not be disheartened when we fall—as we will at times.
None of us is perfect, but with God’s mercy and grace, and with hearts open to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can commit to selfless, faithful service in the Lord’s vineyard. The sacraments, including the Eucharist will strengthen us on our missionary journey.
The gospel reading for this Sunday, September 15, Luke 15:1–32, is most apt as we reflect on our mission as Catholics in our broken world. The gospel focuses on the three parables of God’s mercy: The lost sheep, the lost drachma, and the lost son (the ‘prodigal’) and the dutiful son.
Pope Francis reminds us that “The man/woman who preaches God must be a man/woman of God” (cf Maximum Illud). No one will take us seriously if we seek to preach the Word of God while our lives are not in sync with the values we say we espouse.
He said: “… mission is part of our identity as Christians; it makes us responsible for enabling all men and women to realize their vocation to be adoptive children of the Father, to recognize their personal dignity and to appreciate the intrinsic worth of every human life, from conception until natural death.”
Read the formation booklet produced for the Mission Congress. Participate
in the rallies and workshops
Our bishops rightly “call us to become more aware that in our changing societies, we will need new ways of being Church, ways that will inspire our modern Caribbean people, especially our young people, to be part of the Church. We need new ways of organising our Church life that speak to them and call them to faith and commitment to Christ.”
Let us deepen our personal encounter with Christ and respond generously to this “call to action”