VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis' message for World Mission Day 2014 focuses on the continuing need for all Christians to proclaim the Gospel with joy to the many who have not heard of Christ’s saving work.
“Humanity greatly needs to lay hold of the salvation brought by Christ. His disciples are those who allow themselves to be seized ever more by the love of Jesus and marked by ... passion for the Kingdom of God and the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel,” wrote Pope Francis in his message for the 88th World Mission Day, which will take place on Oct. 19.
The Vatican released the message June 14.
“All the Lord’s disciples are called to nurture the joy of evangelization,” the Holy Father said. Although the bishops as pastors are “primarily responsible for this proclamation,” there is “a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the lay faithful in the Church, as well as a recognition that they are called to take an increasingly important role in the spread of the Gospel,” he said.
He added that, “consequently, they need to be given a suitable training for the sake of an effective apostolic activity.”
Christians must pray and work to make the Church “a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples and the source of rebirth for our world.”
He acknowledged that many parts of the world “are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life” — a problem often caused by the “absence of contagious apostolic fervor.”
The joy of the Gospel arises from an “encounter with Christ and from sharing with the poor.” Those communities who lack such joy also lack vocations.
Yet, “wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise.”
“Let us not be robbed of the joy of evangelization,” he urged. “I invite you to immerse yourself in the joy of the Gospel and nurture a love that can light up your vocation and your mission.”
Pope Francis also reflected on various Gospel passages and figures who represent the joy of evangelization.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus speaks to his disciples, urging them to “share his joy, different and greater than anything they had previously experienced.”
The disciples were initially “filled with joy, excited about their power to set people free from demons.” Yet Jesus cautioned them “to rejoice not so much for the power they had received, but for the love they had received ‘because your names are written in heaven.’”
Jesus’ own “deep joy” comes from his immense love for the Father, who reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom to “the childlike,” he said. These “little ones” are the “humble, the simple, the poor, the marginalized, those without voice, those weary and burdened. … We readily think of Mary, Joseph, the fishermen of Galilee and the disciples whom Jesus called as he went preaching.”
The Pope noted that Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving describes “the Father’s saving and benevolent plan for humanity. It was this divine graciousness that made Jesus rejoice, for the Father willed to love people with the same love that he has for his Son.”
Moreover, this love is Trinitarian, he continued. “The Father is the source of joy. The Son is its manifestation and the Holy Spirit its giver.”
Like Mary and the disciples, “why shouldn’t we too enter this flood of joy?”
“World Mission Day is also an occasion to rekindle the desire and the moral obligation to take joyful part in the mission ad gentes,” emphasized Pope Francis.
One means of participation in the joy of evangelization includes financial support for missionary activity, he explained.
“A monetary contribution on the part of individuals is the sign of a self-offering, first to the Lord and then to others; in this way, a material offering can become a means for the evangelization of humanity built on love.”
The Pope concluded his message with a call to be faithful in the joy that Jesus offers.
“I urge each of you to recall, as if you were making an interior pilgrimage, that ‘first love’ with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your heart, not for the sake of nostalgia but, in order to persevere in joy. The Lord’s disciples persevere in joy when they sense his presence, do his will and share with others their faith, hope and evangelical charity.”