A momentous shift for the church – Archbishop on synod launch
October 18, 2021
Students addressed on World Mission Sunday
October 19, 2021

The mission needs desire

Catholic News file photo: Abbot Pereira, Fr Christo and parishioners inside the abbey church in 2017.

The very title of the Pope’s World Mission Sunday Message 2021 – “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20) – points to a crisis in the Church today. It is not a crisis ad extra but ad intra i.e., within the Church, and within our Archdiocese, too.

What large sections of the faithful lack is evangelical life and vigour. Many of us go through the motions when we attend Mass – we make the sign of the cross in a half-hearted manner, with one finger, indifferent to the fact that we are engaging in bodily prayer; responses are weak and singing not congregational; the Eucharist we receive as if it is some kind of holy snack.

All this stems from the fact that a deep experience of what “we have heard and seen” is lacking. It is as if we are asleep, and somebody must come and wake us up.

The reason why we do not speak is we have not really encountered Jesus in the 21st century. We have locked Him up in ritual and routine that He can’t come out to touch hearts and change lives.

This means that there is an urgent need for a new catechesis so that we may fall in love with that man from Galilee all over again. Here we commend the creative work of catechists, ecclesial communities, prayer groups, lectio groups, and other ecclesial bodies. They have certainly reached many with important teaching through various digital portals.

Yet something more is needed to push this agenda further: desire! The Pope notes in his message: “The Apostles are the first to tell us this; they remembered even the day and the hour when they first met him.”

This is what the mission ad intra needs and only the Holy Spirit can provide – a deep, personal encounter with Jesus such that we cannot but share what we have heard, seen and felt, like the Samaritan woman who told the whole village about Jesus.

It is this nocturnal desire, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, burning in the human heart, in the midst of the pandemic, that will impel us towards the boundaries and peripheries that the Pope calls for in Synod 2023.

It is there on the peripheries that the “mission of compassion” finds its deepest meaning. It is on the peripheries we meet the homeless and mentally ill; migrants and refugees; those confused about gender issues; environmentalists and ecologists; and the young, challenging us to address racism, climate change and poverty.

There is a political mission, too, for the Pope tells us, “The Church’s evangelizing mission finds outward fulfilment in the transformation of our world and in care for creation”.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley has certainly taken that civic Christian duty to the international stage challenging world leaders at the UN last month on vaccine equity, climate change and engaging with Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as equal partners in the global dialogue.

As we celebrate Mission Sunday on the heels of the promulgation of the Synod throughout the dioceses of the world (October 17), let us dare to let the Spirit wrap itself around us as individuals and Church, and take us in places we would rather not go.