World Mission Sunday
On the day of your baptism you became a missionary, called by the Lord to share your faith with those around you, and to be part of the Church’s mission to the world.
Why? The day before your baptism you were not fully human. You were mortal, separate from God. Eternal life is only with God. There is no eternal life apart from God, but only with Him. Jesus said,
“No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
Once you are born of water and Spirit, once you are baptized as Jesus taught, you are restored to be completely human, and you can enter the Kingdom of God and have eternal life. The day before your baptism you were not fully human, you were not going to share eternal life with God. You were merely mortal. On the day of your baptism something changed. On that day you became fully human; you became Christian and a child of God. You gained entrance to the Kingdom of God on that day.
Once you have been baptized, you joined the mission of the Church to save the whole world, to help everyone to live forever. You became a missionary to bring the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God to others. If you have eternal life, but other men and women are merely mortal, then you have to share it.
Today is World Mission Sunday. The Church has celebrated this day since Pope Pius XI initiated it in 1926 as the day of prayer and promotion of missions. On this day we join the entire Church with our second collection to support missionaries dedicated to evangelizing the world in lands that have not known Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict recently opened the Year of Faith, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the great council of Vatican II in October 1962. We will observe the Year of Faith with him and the Church around the world. He also called a Synod of Bishops, which opened this month in Rome to discuss a “new evangelization”. At the opening of the Synod, Pope Benedict said, “the Church exists to evangelize by sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard of Jesus Christ, strengthening the faith of those who already have been baptized and reaching out to those who have drifted away from the Church.”
This is the primary work of the Church to make disciples and baptize all nations, to forgive sins and give them eternal life.
The Church is present in most nations on earth, not all of them friendly. However, we have always faced unfriendly peoples; people who don’t know God and who hate the Church. We do not allow our missionaries to work without support. We join Mother Church to support the work of the missions all over the world. This is our responsibility as baptized Christians. We owe our own faith to foreign missionaries who came to our land in previous generations. Please be generous.
Evangelization is also a continuous task we must carry out among ourselves, right here in our own community. In today’s Gospel, we have the example of Jesus’ own disciples who were still growing in their understanding of their faith.
The Apostles James and John, the fisherman sons of Zebedee, knew Jesus personally. They heard his lessons every day, but they still needed to grow more in understanding.
James and John had learned from Jesus about the coming of the Kingdom of God. They knew they had been chosen to be citizens and leaders in the Kingdom of God. Now, they wanted to make certain they both got corner offices on the top floor of headquarters in the new Kingdom. They were evangelized… almost… but not quite. They hadn’t learned a couple of important things:
1) Followers of Christ don’t seek position over others. As Jesus said: “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.”
Remember Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper?
2) Followers of Christ share his suffering. Jesus said: The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized….
In the first reading, we hear the prophecy of Isaiah regarding Jesus, the “Suffering Servant”. Being a Christian does not mean we are free from suffering and sacrifice, but just the opposite. God never promised us comfort and heaven on earth. We must die with Christ so that we may have eternal life with him. That is what happened on the day of our Baptism. We died to this world so that we could have eternal life with him in God’s Kingdom.
And always remember, if we sin after our baptism we can go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The power of the Sacrament of Confession is that we can return to be sinless, just like the day of our baptism.