Here’s my reflection for World Mission Sunday which appears in the Homily Guides and Reflections for World Mission Month 2015:
One of the most touching moments of Pope Francis’ visit to our country early this year was the Mass at Tacloban airport. He told the people of Leyte and neighboring provinces who suffered greatly because of typhoon Yolanda: “I come to tell you that Jesus is Lord, and he never lets us down… So many of you have lost everything… I do not know what to say to you – but the Lord knows… All I can do is keep silent… And I walk with you all, with my silent heart…”
We were moved, some even to tears, because in him we felt the very closeness of Jesus. We felt loved, and in spite of all our trials and sufferings, our weakness and poverty, and the inclement weather, we rejoiced! Through his presence, his gestures, his words and his silence, Pope Francis spoke to the heart of each single Filipino.
This is what mission is about – to speak of Jesus and to allow Jesus to speak to the hearts of people. Today, as we celebrate Word Mission Sunday, the Holy Father reminds us: “When we pray before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of this love which gives us dignity and sustains us. And we realize that this same love expands to embrace all humanity – and that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people.”
“He wants to make use of you…” yes, YOU… to get closer to all peoples – your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your co-workers, your Facebook friends, your co-parishioners. He also wants to get close to people who are in the “peripheries,” the people you evade or do not notice: beggars at the church doors; street children; young people lost in drugs; the elderly; children and women who are trafficked; people with HIV/AIDS; victims of natural disasters; corrupt politicians; IS terrorists; unscrupulous businessmen; etc. Yes, he wants to get close to and loves even your enemies, plus the billions of people who do not yet know him.
You may say, “I am just an ordinary person with no particular gifts, power, position, wealth or connections. How can Jesus make use of me?”
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples and all of us: “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To serve and to give one’s life. This is what Jesus did. Like the suffering servant of Isaiah in the first reading: because of Jesus’ affliction we shall see the light in fullness of days. Through his suffering, Jesus shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
A 27-year old volunteer, Kristel Padasas, allowed Jesus to make us of her to get close to his people. Do you remember her? She died in an accident when Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Tacloban. Her dedication to the people affected by the typhoon extended beyond her official work with Catholic Relief Services (CRS). She traveled a great distance to volunteer at the papal mass and to remember the victims of Typhoon Haiyan. She came: “to serve and to give her life for many.” She volunteered and offered not only her talents, her time, her treasures but also her very life to serve the poorest of the poor!
Pope Francis recounts that when he was 21 he got seriously ill and had to have part of his lung removed. He was in great pain and the usual greetings did not help him. It was his catechism teacher, Sr. Dolores, who told him something that struck him and gave him peace: “Keep imitating Jesus.” In the light of those words, even everyday suffering took on a different value. Suffering was not taken away, but it gained significance. Thanks to a religious sister whose wise words continue to enlighten the Pope.
On this Year of Consecrated Life, we look to our brothers and sisters who have given up everything to follow the poor, chaste and obedient Jesus. Religious men and women who by their mission and by their life proclaim the Gospel “to the poor, the sick and those who are often looked down upon or forgotten.” It is their love for Jesus and for his people that impels them to bring the “Gospel, the source of joy, liberation and salvation for all men and women.”
“The mission of the servants of the Word – bishops, priests, religious and laity – is to allow everyone, without exception, to enter into a personal relationship with Christ… All the faithful are called to live their baptismal commitment to the fullest, in accordance with the personal situation of each.”
As we pray for all the missionaries in all corners of the world who continue to offer their lives for Jesus and his people, let us support them with our prayers, sacrifices and offerings.
Pope Francis appeals to all of us, but most especially to young people who are capable of courageous witness and generous deeds: “Do not allow others to rob you of the ideal of a true mission, of following Jesus through the total gift of yourself.”
Jesus is calling you to be his presence by a total gift of yourself. Will you come? Will you allow him to send you forth and experience him “walking with you, speaking with you, breathing with you?”
May Mary, the Queen of Apostles, sustain and protect all missionaries. May she pray for many young men and women to answer the call for more laborers in the vineyard of the Lord.