29th Sunday Ordinary Time B (World Mission Sunday)

Homily — World Mission Sunday MMVI (29th Sun. B) 10/22/06

The Great Commission

The Son of Man came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

On this World Mission Sunday, we are reminded that if we are Baptized Catholics, and even more so, if we are Baptized and Confirmed Catholics, then we are on a “Mission from God.”

Our God given mission, both collectively as the Church and individually as believers, is to spread the Faith Jesus gave us.

This Mission of ours could not have been more clearly stated by Our Lord Himself, in His very last words to us before He ascended into Heaven, recorded in Matthew: All power in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Two thousand years later, the Church has grown from a few hundred initial believers to over 1 billion Catholics. And one third of the world’s current population has been Baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity.

And while on the one hand this is impressive, on the other hand, at least 2/3rds of the world does not yet know Christ. Which means the Church and her members are not even half finished yet with the Mission God has given us.

So how then do we Christians spread the Faith to the remaining 2/3rds of the world, whether they are in foreign lands, or in our own city and state?

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, recently spoke about this very issue of spreading the Faith in his widely publicized speech at the German University of Regensburg last month. That speech was, in one sense, all about the right way and the wrong way of being a Missionary.

In that speech the Pope stated that “(S)preading the faith through violence is something unreasonable(,). . . .incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the (Human) soul.” And so, to coerce, or trick, or emotionally manipulate people into believing is sinful, and contrary to the Gospel message. And in the long run, it just won’t cause the faith to spread.

So forcing faith on others isn’t the answer. (How very sad it is, that because of a line in that speech which has been grossly taken out of context, a Catholic missionary nun who for years had served the poor children of Somalia was shot from behind and killed, and an Orthodox priest was kidnapped and then beheaded, both by people claiming to act in the name of God!)

And while the Pope in that same talk goes on to speak about the correct way, the only way to spread the faith, we have the answer from Our Lord Himself in today’s Gospel: Whoever wishes to be great will be (a) servant . . . .the slave of all.

Therefore, whoever wishes to be a great missionary will also be a servant to all. So, what does Jesus mean by being a servant? He means we must be servants of two things.

To be effective missionaries, you and I must be servants of mercy and servants of truth toward everyone we come in contact with.

To be a servant of truth to all people, we must believe firmly in the Truth, who is Jesus Christ, who died and rose again to save every person from sin and death. To be a servant of truth to all people, we must also hold fast to the Truths of our Catholic Faith, living by them, defending them when they are ridiculed or misunderstood by others.

And to be a “servant of mercy” to all people means to do those Works of Mercy Jesus teaches us to do: works such as feeding the hungry, forgiving all injuries, visiting and caring for the sick and dying, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead.

And not just to do the works of mercy, or proclaim the Truth when we feel like it, If we wish to be great missionaries, great disciples of Jesus, we must be slaves to mercy and truth, which means being merciful and truthful when mercy and truth demand it of us.

There’s a beautiful line in one of the Old Testament Psalms, Psalm 85: Mercy and Truth shall meet. Mercy and Truth have met in the Person of Jesus Christ, and to bring people to a knowledge of Christ, we can’t neglect one nor the other.

And so this weekend, we pray for all missionaries, especially those in the mission countries who may be today enduring great hardships, and may be even risking their lives to bring the love and the truth of the Gospel to peoples who have never heard it before. And in the second collection, we’ll be able to become even more a part of that effort, through our generosity to them.

May the Eucharist we celebrate this World Mission Sunday bless these foreign missionaries, and help us aspire to be the Truly Great Missionaries Jesus calls each of us to be, in the service of His mercy and His truth to all peoples.

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