This year World Mission Day will be celebrated on Sunday, 29 October, focused on the theme: “Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move”, inspired by the story of the first appearance of Jesus to two of His Disciples, after His crucifixion and the discovery of the empty tomb, in the Gospel of Luke (24:13-35).
In his message, Pope Francis dwells on three images in the Gospel episode, which he says “reflect the journey of all missionary disciples”.
The first one is that of their bewilderment after the crucifixion, changing into their “hearts burning” after they met the mysterious Wayfarer explaining to them what was said in the Scriptures about Him.
This story – Pope Francis writes – reminds us that the Risen Lord remains close to his missionary disciples, particularly when they feel “disoriented, discouraged, fearful of the mystery of iniquity that surrounds them”, and that with His Word He transforms us so that we can proclaim His mystery of Salvation.
Pope Francis points out: “Let us always be willing to let ourselves be accompanied by the Risen Lord as he explains to us the meaning of the Scriptures. May he make our hearts burn within us; may he enlighten and transform us, so that we can proclaim his mystery of salvation to the world with the power and wisdom that come from his Spirit.”
The second image recalled in the message is that of the disciples “opening their eyes” when Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them.
“Here”, the Pope notes, “we can recognise an essential reality of our faith: Christ, who breaks the bread, now becomes the bread broken, shared with the disciples and consumed by them.”
“Every missionary disciple is called to become, like Jesus and in Him, through the working of the Holy Spirit, one who breaks the bread and one who is broken bread for the world.”
The third image recalled by Pope Francis is that of the disciples setting out on the way, “with the joy of telling others about the Risen Christ”. This setting out in haste to share with others the joy of meeting the Lord”, the Pope notes, “demonstrates that the joy of the Gospel fills the heart and the whole life of those who meet Jesus. One cannot truly encounter the Risen Jesus without being set on fire with enthusiasm to tell everyone about Him”, he stresses.
Hence the duty of every Christian to announce the Gospel to our broken world “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 image of ‘feet setting out’ reminds us once more of the perennial validity of the missio ad gentes, the mission entrusted to the Church by the risen Lord to evangelize all individuals and peoples, even to the ends of the earth. 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.”
Bringing his message to a close, Pope Francis points out that all of us “can contribute to this missionary movement with our prayers and activities, with material offerings and the offering of our sufferings, and with our personal witness”.
This calls for ‘an ever closer missionary cooperation’ on the part of all members of the Church at every level, which he says is “an essential goal of the synodal journey that the Church has undertaken, guided by the keywords: communion, participation, mission”.
The Pope concluded: “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”. (L.Z.)