Homily for the 29th Sunday of Year A

Mission Sunday

Readings:  Isaiah 45:1,4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21

Theme: ‘Hearts on fire; feet on the move’ (Pope Francis)

Today, World Mission Sunday, is the day set aside by the Catholic Church throughout the world to publicly renew its commitment to its universal mission, its calling to bring the Good news of Christ to the ends of the earth. Pope Francis has recently reminded us that service to the mission entrusted to it by Christ is the goal of the synodal journey on which the Church is currently embarked.  ‘This journey is certainly not a turning of the Church in upon herself; nor is it a referendum about what we ought to believe and practice, nor a matter of human preferences. Rather, it is a process of setting out on the way and, like the disciples of Emmaus, listening to the risen Lord. For he always comes among us to explain the meaning of the Scriptures and to break bread for us, so that we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, carry out his mission in the world’. And this mission is the responsibility not just of priests and religious, but of the entire people of God.

The mission of Christ that the Church is charged and empowered to continue is to promote God’s reign ‘on earth as in heaven’. This is the heart of what is meant by the words of today’s gospel, ‘to give back to God what belongs to God (Mt 22:21), for everything belongs to God, and must be returned to him. Unlike the reign of Caesar, based on ruthlessly enforced power and control, which was bad news especially for the poor, God’s reign is good news. It is a reign of love and freedom, of truth and justice. Moreover, unlike the reign of Caesar, and all earthly kingdoms, it will endure forever. As lived and proclaimed by Jesus, God’s reign meant good news for the poor, healing for the sick, and liberation for the enslaved and oppressed: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord’ (Lk 4:18-19).

During his life on earth, Jesus was particularly concerned with those who were marginal to, or excluded from, the Jewish establishment of his time: the poor, the blind, the lepers, the tax collectors, those possessed by demons, the persecuted, and the downtrodden. Jesus wanted to end their misery and enable them to have life in abundance: ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10). Concern for the integral welfare of human beings, created in the image of a loving God, was at the very heart of Jesus’ message and ministry. As Christ’s disciples, we are all called and sent to be instruments of his compassion in the context of our broken, confused and anxiety riven world.

While all baptised members of the Church are called to bear witness to Christ and the Gospel of love, wherever they are, there is also, within the Church a special calling to mission outside one’s own cultural or national setting. Down through the centuries the Church’s mission to the nations was carried out by the members of missionary congregations and societies, ready and willing to embark upon a courageous outreach to  peoples and cultures outside their homelands. Irish missionaries and their supporters have made, and continue to make, an outstanding contribution to this missionary outreach.  Without the inspiration and leadership given by these women and men, the missionary impulse of the Church would have gradually diminished and died out, and the Church would have never realised its essential vocation to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth.  

Today we need such missionaries just as much as in the past. In his Message for this special Sunday, Pope Francis, states: ‘Today more than ever, our human family, wounded by so many situations of injustice, so many divisions and wars, is in need of the Good News of peace and salvation in Christ. I take this opportunity to reiterate that everyone has the right to receive the Gospel and Christians have the duty to announce it without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but as one who shares a joy, signals a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet.’

The Church’s missionary outreach is a great act of love.  Its purpose is not to transplant the Church as we know it to new places,  but to bring about ‘a new creation’, one that respects the culture of the people.  Missionaries nurture the seeds of the God’s Word already present in the lives and cultures of the people among who they work, so that these seeds may come to full flowering in the light of the Gospel of Christ. In this way, the Catholic Church becomes what it is called to be – truly Catholic and universal. I end with the fervent exhortation of Pope Francis: ‘Let us set out to make other hearts burn with the word of God, to open the eyes of others to Jesus in the Eucharist, and to invite everyone to walk together on the path of peace and salvation that God, in Christ, has bestowed upon all humanity.’

 Our Lady of the Way, Mother of Christ’s missionary disciples and Queen of Missions, pray for us!’

Fr Michael McCabe SMA

To listen to an alternative Homily for this Sunday, from Fr Tom Casey of the SMA Media Centre, Ndola, Zambia please click on the play button below.

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