Missionary Meditation for Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
World Mission (Sun)day 2022
The Lord hears the cry of the poor
From the MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR WORLD MISSION (SUN)DAY 2022
“You shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)
Dear brothers and sisters!
These words were spoken by the Risen Jesus to his disciples just before his Ascension into heaven, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). […]
1. “You shall be my witnesses” – The call of every Christian to bear witness to Christ
[…] They [the disciples] are sent by Jesus to the world not only to carry out, but also and above all to live the mission entrusted to them; not only to bear witness, but also and above all to be witnesses of Christ. […] Missionaries of Christ […] [have] the supreme honour of presenting Christ in words and deeds, proclaiming to everyone the Good News of his salvation, as the first apostles did, with joy and boldness. […]
In evangelization, then, the example of a Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. One is at the service of the other. They are the two lungs with which any community must breathe, if it is to be missionary. […]
2. “To the ends of the earth” – The perennial relevance of a mission of universal evangelization
[…] Here we clearly see the universal character of the disciples’ mission. […]
The words “to the ends of the earth” should challenge the disciples of Jesus in every age and impel them to press beyond familiar places in bearing witness to him. For all the benefits of modern travel, there are still geographical areas in which missionary witnesses of Christ have not arrived to bring the Good News of his love. Then too no human reality is foreign to the concern of the disciples of Jesus in their mission. Christ’s Church will continue to “go forth” towards new geographical, social and existential horizons, towards “borderline” places and human situations, in order to bear witness to Christ and his love to men and women of every people, culture and social status. […]
3. “You will receive power” from the Holy Spirit – Let us always be strengthened and guided by the Spirit
When the risen Christ commissioned the disciples to be his witnesses, he also promised them the grace needed for this great responsibility: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). […] the Holy Spirit gave them the strength, courage and wisdom to bear witness to Christ before all. […]
All Christ’s missionary disciples are called to recognize the essential importance of the Spirit’s work, to dwell in his presence daily and to receive his unfailing strength and guidance. Indeed, it is precisely when we feel tired, unmotivated or confused that we should remember to have recourse to the Holy Spirit in prayer. Let me emphasize once again that prayer plays a fundamental role in the missionary life, for it allows us to be refreshed and strengthened by the Spirit as the inexhaustible divine source of renewed energy and joy in sharing Christ’s life with others. […] The Spirit, then, is the true protagonist of mission. It is he who gives us the right word, at the right time, and in the right way.
In light of this action of the Holy Spirit, we also want to consider the missionary anniversaries to be celebrated in 2022. The establishment of the Sacred Congregation De Propaganda Fide in 1622 was motivated by the desire to promote the missionary mandate in new territories. […]
The same Spirit who guides the universal Church also inspires ordinary men and women for extraordinary missions. Thus it was that a young French woman, Pauline Jaricot, founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith exactly two hundred years ago. Her beatification will be celebrated in this jubilee year. Albeit in poor health, she accepted God’s inspiration to establish a network of prayer and collection for missionaries, so that the faithful could actively participate in the mission “to the ends of the earth”. […]
In this regard, I think too of the French Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson, who established the Association of the Holy Childhood to promote the mission among children, with the motto “Children evangelize children, children pray for children, children help children the world over”. I also think of Jeanne Bigard, who inaugurated the Society of Saint Peter the Apostle for the support of seminarians and priests in mission lands. Those three Mission Societies were recognized as “Pontifical” exactly a hundred years ago. It was also under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit that Blessed Paolo Manna, born 150 years ago, founded the present-day Pontifical Missionary Union, to raise awareness and encourage missionary spirit among priests, men and women religious and the whole people of God. Saint Paul VI himself was part of this latter Society, and confirmed its papal recognition. I mention these four Pontifical Mission Societies for their great historical merits, but also to encourage you to rejoice with them, in this special year, for the activities they carry out in support of the mission of evangelization in the Church, both universal and local. It is my hope that the local Churches will find in these Societies a sure means for fostering the missionary spirit among the People of God. […]
BIBLICAL-MISSIONARY COMMENTARY (Meditations by Pierre Diarra)
In our meditation, which is a little longer than usual, we cannot forget the theme of the World Missionary Week, namely: you will be my witnesses (Acts 1:8). To what is the Christian called, if not to be a credible witness of Jesus Christ? We are referred to the Acts of the Apostles and the missionary life of the early Christians. Jesus said to his apostles: “You do not have to know the times and seasons that the Father has set by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. (Acts 1:7-8). Before clarifying what is meant by being witnesses, let us recall that Pope Francis has written that the Acts of the Apostles is the book that missionary disciples always keep close at hand. It is the book that tells how the fragrance of the Gospel is to be poured out on the disciple-missionary’s passage and arouse a joy that only the Spirit can give.
What does it mean to be a witness? Witness to what, to whom, to whom and how? To bear witness to what we have seen and heard, namely Jesus, crucified and risen. We must immediately make the connection between witnesses and martyrs. The witness, like the martyr, for these two words have the same root, is the one who, having been present at an event, can say what he or she has seen and heard, during a trial for example. Let us simply mention that it can be an object that serves as a witness, a sign, such as a stele considered as the historical witness of a treaty of alliance. When we say to bear witness or to testify on behalf of someone, it speaks very loudly. We can consider the two Tables of the Law as a strong sign of the covenant between Israel and its God. But we could also talk about witnessing among family and friends, about a charter and of course about God calling men and women to witness to him. For us Christians, we are invited to testify to what we have seen and heard, namely Christ, but more precisely the life of Jesus, his miracles, his teaching, his attention to sinners, the poor and the little ones, but above all his death and resurrection, expression of the Love of the Trinity. It is true that we were not there when Jesus rose from the tomb, victorious over death, but the witnesses who saw him after his resurrection are credible and their testimony has reached us. Many died as martyrs, bearing witness to him: it was impossible for them to remain silent; they preferred to suffer martyrdom than not to bear witness to him.
Each of us has experienced a faith encounter with the risen Lord. The Holy Scriptures bear witness to this; the lives and martyrdoms of the first Christians bear witness to this; the history of the Church bears witnesses to this; and today Jesus can be presented by each of us as the faithful witness, the one who bore witness to the love of his Father, revealed as our Father. The first leaders of the Church, the Pope, the bishops, the priests, the men, and women religious, can bear witness to Christ and even dedicate their entire lives to announcing him and certifying that he is the only Saviour of the world and that he must be announced everywhere in the world as the only Saviour. He, the faithful witness, has revealed himself to each one of us and he sends us to bear witness to his love, his peace, and his justice. He sends us to work, with him and in the Spirit, so that the Kingdom may come.
Following the Twelve and the many missionaries, he sends us as baptised people, whatever our ecclesial responsibility, to bear witness to the love of God manifested in the whole life of Jesus, his death on the cross, his resurrection, the sending of the Holy Spirit, the life of the first Christian communities, the life of the Church over the centuries, etc., not forgetting the many missionaries and martyrs.
First, we are invited to better perceive that the Holy Spirit is the true initiator of the apostolic mission, as he was of Jesus’ own mission (Lk 4:1). He is led by the Spirit he received at baptism. Communicated to Jesus and poured out by him (Acts 2:33), the Holy Spirit is received in connection with the baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 1:5). It is given primarily for preaching and witnessing (Acts 4:8,31; 5:32; 6:10). He intervenes by acting on the conduct of the apostles as we can read in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:15, 17; 10:19, 44-47; 11:12, 15; 15:8). We are then invited to perceive that the witness given to Christ is above all a witness to the Resurrection (Acts 1:22). In the Acts of the Apostles, the witnesses are above all the Twelve (Acts 1:22; 10:41), but others are also called witnesses, in somewhat different and diverse senses (13:31; 22:20). Today, we are all witnesses of the Risen Christ. Finally, we are asked to widen the space of apostolic witness. It is no longer only a witness from Jerusalem to Rome, from the Jews to the Gentiles, as the plan of the Acts of the Apostles shows, but everywhere and in all sectors of the life of men and women today. God, powerfully, intervenes again today to advance this story by sending the Holy Spirit (2,1-13; 10,44; 19,6) and by raising up witnesses of the Resurrection, ready to die to witness to Christ.
Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, advocates the integration of Christianity into Roman society. Christians are encouraged to live their faith in the socio-cultural environment where the future of their religion, the Roman Empire, is now at stake. Luke is convinced that access to the universal God will be facilitated by the universality of the empire. For Luke, the Word became flesh in a human destiny that he had to describe. As a theologian, he specifies that history is the place where God is revealed. History, under his pen, becomes kerygma, and kerygma is expressed in history. Luke wanted to be God’s historian and he tells a story in which the reader perceives tensions and shifts, paths of conversion and witness. He invites us to bear witness to the dead and risen Christ, to live to better proclaim him and to make us want to believe in him and to be part of the Church. God, the God revealed in Jesus Christ, is the God of each and every one. The extension of salvation to humans is both a divine work, to which the Holy Spirit powerfully contributes, and the result of the labour and suffering of those sent. Divine actions and human efforts combined to bring about the birth of a Church that brings together men and women from all walks of life (Acts 14:27). The missionary programme built by the Risen One, starting from Jerusalem and going all the way to Rome, remains perhaps unfinished. It must therefore be pursued, not in the world of the story, but in the world of the reader: it is the horizon, never reached, of the Church, a promise of universality that overhangs Christianity.
The Spirit is power; it empowers the disciples to be witnesses of the Risen One, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth and in every context. The Spirit is a power of witness; it empowers each baptised person to bear witness to the salvation he or she has received, as Peter makes clear: “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; 1Cor 12:1-3:9). The Spirit allows the same Gospel to be understood in the plurality of languages and peoples. Every human being is invited to open to a common relationship with the Gospel in the irreducible diversity of cultures. God calls us all, those who are near and those who are far away (Acts 2:39), for there is no salvation except in Jesus, the Christ (Acts 4:12). We are invited to share the Word and the holy meal, the source of life and communion, which cannot be an occasion for death (Acts 12:6; 16:25).
It is important to be aware of the urgency of witnessing to our contemporaries. How can we convince all the baptized in 2022 to be witnesses of Christ and to support the Pontifical Mission Societies, to give the universal Church, the means for its mission? How can we help them to follow in the footsteps of Pauline, with their eyes fixed on Mary and her son, the Lord Jesus? How can we arouse the generosity of Christians so that our local churches have the means to continue to witness to Christ? The triumphalist finale of the Acts of the Apostles is not the triumph of a man, since Paul is a prisoner, but the triumph of the Word whose expansion nothing can hinder. The victory of the Word of God refers to Paul who remains a missionary in Rome until the end. We are invited to live a fraternal communion beyond all borders and to remain open to all.
Prayer is at the heart of the texts proposed to us today, World Mission Day; it is at the heart of Christian mission. If you could reread these texts over the next few days, it is well worth it, even if this meditation is already long. The Lord does not despise our prayers, nor those of the orphan, nor those of the widow; the Lord listens to everyone. We are advised to give to the Most High according to our resources and according to what he gives, without being fussy. In other words: since the Lord is generous to us, let us give generously and joyfully. God loves a cheerful giver (2Cor 9:7; Prv 22:8). Biblical wisdom tells us that the Lord is the one who pays back; he will give us back seven times what we have given. This shows that the Lord is not in the logic of give and take, he gives much more, hence this precision that we are given and that we must take seriously. We are invited to truly love, by opting for a filial dialogue with God our Father, for a fraternal gratuity at the heart of the dialogue of salvation (Pierre Diarra, Gratuité fraternelle au cœur du dialogue, Paris, Karthala, 2021) Let us read: “Do not try to influence him with gifts, he will not accept them. The Lord is good; there is therefore no need to try to influence him or to bribe him. He does not discriminate against the poor; he listens to the prayer of the oppressed. In fact, he does not disadvantage anyone.
What the Lord asks of us is to trust in him; prayer is the expression of this trust. We know it and we may have experienced it: as soon as a poor person cries out, the Lord hears; he saves him from all his anguish. The Lord is there to free those who fear him. But this does not mean that he is not interested in the salvation of others, less pious, less believing or even unbelieving. With the psalmist, we can invite our contemporaries by saying: Taste and see: the Lord is good! Blessed is he who takes refuge in him! Whoever you are, worship the Lord; those who fear him lack nothing. Whoever seeks the Lord will not lack any good thing. With the Lord Jesus we have everything. Yes, we must all give thanks to the Lord, for he is good and does not forget any of his children.
We are invited to go as far as possible in our generosity, in our love for God and our love for our neighbour. We must not enter or remain in a logic where we are always measuring what we give and what we receive in return or in exchange. Indeed, as Pope Francis explains in Fratelli tutti (All brothers, no. 140), God, on the other hand, gives freely to the point of helping even those who are not faithful, and “he makes his sun rise on the wicked and on the good” (Mt 5:45).
It is therefore important to reflect on the strength of our witness, but also on the attitude of the Pharisee and that of the publican, a page of the Gospel that we know well. Let us listen to what the Pharisee said as he stood and prayed within himself: “My God, I thank you because I am not like other men - they are thieves, unjust, adulterers - or like this publican. We sometimes forget that the Pharisees were believers who tried to do everything the Law of Moses prescribed. They often succeeded and sometimes boasted about it, even to the point of justifying themselves before God, saying: “I do this and this and this. I am not this, nor this; I am not like that tax collector. As for the publican, he humbly acknowledges that he is a sinner. For he beat his breast, saying, ‘God, show favour to the sinner who is me’. And Jesus says: “When the latter came down to his house, he was the one who had become a righteous man, rather than the other. He who exalts himself will be humbled; he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Useful points to consider:
Pope Francis, Angelus, St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 October 2016
Today is a time of mission and a time of courage! Courage to strengthen faltering steps, to recapture the enthusiasm of devoting oneself to the Gospel, of recovering confidence in the strength that the mission brings to bear. It is a time of courage, even if having courage does not mean having a guarantee of success. Courage is required of us in order to fight, not necessarily to win; in order to proclaim, not necessarily to convert. Courage is required of us in order to open ourselves to everyone, never diminishing the absoluteness and uniqueness of Christ, the one saviour of all. Courage is required of us in order to withstand incredulity, without becoming arrogant. Required of us too is the courage of the tax collector in today’s Gospel, who humbly did not dare even to raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”. Today is a time for courage! Today courage is needed!
May the Virgin Mary, model of the Church “that goes forth” and of docility to the Holy Spirit, help us all to be, in the strength of our Baptism, missionary disciples in order to bring the message of salvation to the entire human family..
Pope Francis, Homily “With a ‘naked heart’”, St Peter’s Square, Saturday, 21 March 2020
In the Gospel (cf. Lk 18:9.14) […] the Lord teaches us how to pray, how to approach, how we must approach the Lord: with humility. There is a beautiful image in the liturgical hymn of the feast of Saint John the Baptist. It says that the people came to the Jordan to receive baptism, “naked in soul and foot”: to pray with the naked soul, unembellished, without dressing up in one’s own virtues. He […] forgives all sins but needs us to show Him our sins, with our nakedness. To pray in this way, exposed, with a naked soul, without covering up, […], face to face, with a naked soul. […]. Instead, when we go to the Lord, a bit too sure of ourselves, we fall into the presumptuousness of this man [the Pharisee], or of the elder son, or of that rich man who lacked nothing. We will have the same sureness from the other side. “I will go to the Lord… I want to go, to be educated… and I will speak to Him face to face, practically…”. This is not the way. The way is by lowering oneself. Lowering oneself. The way is reality. And the only man who, in this parable, had understood reality, was the tax collector: “You are God and I am a sinner”. This is reality. But I say that I am a sinner not with the mouth: with the heart.
 We offer for this Sunday the meditation of Prof. Pierre Diarra of PMU France, taking the opportunity to thank him again sincerely for this text. He wrote, at our request, the liturgical commentaries for all the days of the missionary month of October 2022, sent by email to the PMS national directors at the beginning of this year for their use in missionary animation.