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Mission Sunday

THIS SUNDAY THE Church marks Mission Sunday, or the beginning of Mission Week, a celebration that extends from Sunday to Sunday. In some countries, October is dedicated as Mission Month and is four weeks of focus on the life of the Church in other lands, as well as a time of reflecting on our relationship with them and offering support to those who struggle financially.

In this sense, it is one way the Church in wealthier countries can share with its brothers and sisters in poorer parts of the world.

But mission is a far wider reality than that. The Vatican Council tells us that the Church is missionary by its very nature and Pope Francis explains that every land is a missionary land and every dimension of the human person needs to be preached the gospel.

“It is important to work for a Church that is for all; a Church that is ready to receive and accompany,” the pope said in speaking with the Oblate Mission Society.

In The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), he calls it a passionate proclamation on the joy of being a missionary disciple and in The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetititia), he turns to St. Thomas Aquinas, who describes that joy as an expansion of the heart, adding, “The most intense joys in life are when we are able to elicit joy in others.”

Although mission is often thought of as taking Christ where he is not known, our real mission is to accompany people in discovering where and how Christ is already present in people’s lives, their communities and their cultures.

In this sense, every land is a mission land, every neighbourhood is a mission neighbourhood and every family is a mission family, and the disciples of Christ are called to express the missionary dimension of their lives by walking with people in their journey of faith, in their struggle against the injustice that keeps them poor or on the margins of society, and in their care for God’s creation.

It is an outreach to people of all faiths and none and an accompaniment in their struggle to find their own dignity as a person, as a child of God.

At the Melanesian Institute, a training centre for catechists in Goroka, the highlands of Papua New Guinea, a large painting, cherished more for its message than its artistic worth, hung in the main entrance.

It depicted the first missionary coming to the area in the traditional fashion of piety, white robed and holding cross aloft, standing in a canoe paddled by locals, with the people kneeling on the shore ready to receive him.

But among those kneeling on the shore, the graduating catechist painted Jesus kneeling with them, but in vague outline, saying Christ was already there among them, but the missionary was being welcomed to accompany them in their search to discern, describe and experience his presence.

The catechist, who did the painting, did not image himself as proselytising, or convincing anyone to join his faith, but as a fellow traveller, ready to accompany his neighbours in their search for dignity and the presence of God.

Hong Kong is a divided city, we are called to walk together from conflict to communion. JiM