Sunday 21 October 2018
In his Message for Mission Sunday 2018, Pope Francis tells us that Christian Families are Missionary Families. It is the theme he chose for this Mission Sunday.
We are all part of many different types of families:
– family that is the human race;
– the family of God;
– our diocesan and parish families;
– and each one of us is part of a particular family: with grandparents, parents, siblings, nephews and nieces and so on.
This Mission Sunday we celebrate the work of thousands of people who serve God’s family in a particular way – our missionaries. Thousands of missionaries down the centuries have left this land to preach God’s message of love to the nations. Today we celebrate their faith and the faith of the communities all over the world who can trace their foundation back to the sacrifice of Irish missionaries who came to announce the Good News.
In today’s Gospel, the sons of Zebedeee ask Jesus to give them special places in heaven for their following him. But Jesus answers them by telling them that those who want to follow him should not seek reward but should want to serve. This is what we celebrate every Mission Sunday: the service our missionaries do on our behalf.
But each one of us here today as at Mass are also missionaries: we are missionaries because of our baptism as Christians. But of course the vast majority of Irish people cannot leave their homes and families and be missionaries in foreign lands. No! But we can be missionaries by our support for those who have gone on our behalf.
St Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions, never left France. She left her family to join a Convent and, aged 24, she died there. Yet she is the Patroness of the Missions. We can do the same. Offer our prayers to God for our missionaries and the people they serve all over the world.
But we can be missionaries in Ireland too! How we live our life at home can give us many opportunities to act in a missionary way. How? By prayer. By how we interact with other people. And how we care for God’s creation around us. More and more, we realise that how we live our life has an impact on others. Our wasting of food, overuse of plastics, wasting water etc. etc. – all these and many other things – are causing hunger and death in other lands, far from Ireland.
Ireland has more missionaries per capita than any other country in the world but things and times are changing rapidly. In a few short years we have seen the collapse of faith in a huge swathe of our population. Many people of faith have become disillusioned with the world of today and the role of the Church. But your faith has never failed. Like a ship on the ocean, it may have met squalls and storms but you have never abandoned the faith passed on to us by our ancestors who endured great sufferings in their time. Today, you are a light in a world of much darkness but it is always better to light a candle than to curse that darkness.
The work of preaching the Gospel continues; there are still people yet to hear the Good News. And our environment needs people of faith who realise that we are not an island; that what we say and do has its influence on others. Despite what we see around us – in the world, in the Church – the message of Jesus – to love and to serve – remains the only true way to peace in the world and prosperity for all humankind.
In Africa, Asia, parts of south America Masses are being celebrated by priests, in other places there is no priest so the Sunday Service of the Word is been led by Religious Sisters or local lay people, trained to give this service to their fellow parishioners. Please pray for all of them and the communities they serve. Please support today’s collection which will go to help the neediest parts of the missions.
Thank you for your support of the missions and particularly Irish missionaries down the years. They are your representatives in Africa and elsewhere. But today you can be a missionary in Ireland by your actions and prayers.
Thank you for all you have done, for what you are now doing and what you will do in the future so that God’s kingdom may come, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Martin Kavanagh SMA