By Fr Abraham Borja SVD (A Divine Word Missionary assigned in Taiwan, currently pursuing Biblical Studies in Jerusalem)
World Mission Sunday, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926, is celebrated on the penultimate Sunday of October “as a day of prayer and missionary propaganda throughout the whole Catholic world (Rescript of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, 14 April 1926). Let us reflect on the significance of this celebration in the light of today’s readings.
The basic premise is this: God has a mission and God calls and sends all baptized Christians to participate in the fulfillment of His mission.
In the first reading, God, through the prophet Isaiah, said to King Cyrus: “I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know [that]…I am the Lord and there is no other” (Isa 45:5c-6). The mission was clear: to make known to other nations that there is only one God. God’s words “I arm you” suggests a military language. Cyrus was successful in his military campaigns against other nations because God was completing a mission through him (cf. Isa 45:1-3).
In the gospel, Jesus, the Son of God and sent by God for a mission, is challenged by those who wanted to trap him. However, these adversaries recognized some distinctive qualities in Jesus: “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status” (Mt 22:16). In short, Jesus is (1) truthful man, (2) teaches God’s way, (3) not swayed by others, and (4) fair or just.
In the second reading, the great missionary, Paul, along with Silvanus and Timothy, tell the Thessalonians of the role of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission: “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and much conviction” (1 Thess 1:5). Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, missionaries of the early Church, insist on role of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the gospel.
The reflection of D. Bosch seems to summarize the three readings: “The classical doctrine of the missio Dei as God sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Holy Spirit, was expanded to include yet another “movement”: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit sending the church into the world” (Transforming Mission). The last line asserts the Church’s participation or the duty of every baptized Christian to partake in God’s mission to build the reign of God and reign of love, justice, and peace on earth.
How can we effectively participate in God’s mission? There are many ways and means to do mission. But some fundamentals are stated in today’s gospel. Let us strive to study, imitate, and live like Jesus who (1) is truthful man, (2) teaches God’s way, (3) is not swayed by others or anything that opposes the gospel, and (4) is fair or just. Practicing these four things is already doing our part as participants in God’s mission.