29th Sunday in Ordinary time 2015 – Year B – Mission Sunday

That they may have life

This Sunday – Mission Sunday – each of us is reminded of our calling to be a missionary.

Why am I a missionary? Because I am baptised.

How am I a missionary? By how I live my daily life. And how do I do that? By making a positive contribution to the world in which I live.

The theme chosen by Pope Francis for Mission Sunday 2015 is ‘that they may have life’.

Who are ‘they’? All God’s people, that is, every man, woman and child on the earth, no matter if they are people of faith or not.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is, once again, trying to explain to his disciples what the cost of discipleship – being a follower – will be. It will involve suffering and death. But, through death, will come the fullness of life. So too the cost of our following Jesus will make demands of us.

Some of us – from our own community – have what is called a ‘missionary vocation’ – women and men who felt called to be sisters, brothers or priests and go to the ‘foreign missions’. Ireland is justifiably proud of its missionaries. They – our representatives – have gone to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel to tell people that Jesus offers them life.

During his life on earth Jesus preached this Good News. He preached by what he said but, more importantly, by what he did.

He told his followers they must feed the hungry – and so Jesus fed the 5,000 with the bread and fish;

He told them that they not lord it over people but be their servants – and so he washed the feet of his disciples on Holy Thursday.

He spoke against some of the traditions of his time because they were no longer applicable – so he healed the woman with the haemorrhage, Mary was the first to see him after his resurrection…

He told them they should forgive – and so, on the Cross he asked the Father to forgive the Jewish leaders and Romans for what they were doing to him.

So Jesus – the first missionary – gives us an example for us to follow today? Many Irish women and men have done so by leaving our country, some to work as missionaries or others as development workers. However, both types do similar work, though sometimes from a different perspective. They want the people they go to to experience the abundance of life Jesus promises.

Many years ago the missionaries went and built schools, hospitals and churches. Some still do. But they have realised that ‘mission work’ is more than churches, schools and hospitals. It is about meeting people where they are, in their own environment and culture. It is about ‘acceptance’ – acceptance of them as they are and not trying to change them into something they are not.

And so that brings us back to ourselves. As missionaries – never leaving Ireland – we are called to accept others and be concerned for them, here in our own country and beyond. Do we? Do I ? Do I accept the stranger? Economic refugees? Travellers?

But there is more to being a Christian that this. We must also be accepting, and respectful, of our creation. One of the great messages which Pope Francis is preaching is that, as Christians, we are each responsible for our creation. Though we may see ourselves as masters of our world, we cannot abuse it or damage it. Next month a Conference is taking place in Paris which will have a profound impact on the future of our world. The decisions there will help decide the fate of the world, it will decide if our children’s children will have life itself on earth! It’s as stark as that. This Mission Sunday let us pray fervently that our leaders will make the right decisions for our earth. But, following the example of Jesus, let there be practical action to make it so.

And that begins with me! And specifically to Mission Sunday.

Whilst not forgetting that I have a responsibility for the future of my world, Mission Sunday focuses us on the specific needs of our missionaries and their need for prayer and financial support so that they can continue their work, on our behalf, as our representatives.

Mission Sunday is traditionally the day when we’re asked to make a financial contribution to the work of our missionaries through a Collection which is sent to Rome to help pay for the building of schools, hospitals etc in mission lands.

On behalf of our missionaries Thank You sincerely for supporting them down the years and please continue to do so in order that they may continue to do the work of Christ, bring life to others.

To bring life in all its fullness

Martin Kavanagh SMA