VATICAN CITY — Jesus Christ desires that all people know him and his love, and every Catholic has the mission of sharing this love with the world, Pope Francis said Sunday at Mass for World Mission Day.
“Those who bear witness to Jesus go out to all, not just to their own acquaintances or their little group. Jesus is also saying to you: ‘Go — don’t miss a chance to bear me witness!’” the Pope said Oct. 20.
“My brother, my sister, the Lord expects from you a testimony that no one can give in your place,” he continued. “May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life ... lest you fail in your precious mission.”
Pope Francis spoke about the missionary mandate of the Church during a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass also falls during the Church’s celebration, in October, of “Extraordinary Missionary Month.”
The Mass also took place during the Synod of Bishops on the Pan-Amazon Region, a meeting of bishops and others at the Vatican Oct. 6-27, to discuss the Church’s life and mission in the Amazon.
In his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Go, and make disciples of all nations.”
He noted other occasions when Scripture refers to God’s desire for all people to be saved, such as in 1 Timothy, when St. Paul writes that God desires “all to be saved,” and in Isaiah and the Psalms, when it says, “all peoples.”
“The Lord is deliberate in repeating the word ‘all.’ He knows that we are always using the words ‘my’ and ‘our:’ my things, our people, our community. ... But he constantly uses the word all; all, because no one is excluded from his heart, from his salvation,” Francis stated.
He told Catholics to consider whether they take the time to have a personal encounter with the people they run across in their daily lives. “Do we accept the invitation of Jesus or simply go about our own business?” he asked.
The instruction Catholics have received from the Lord, to “make disciples,” is simple, he said, but care must be taken to make people “his disciples, not our own.”
The Church must live out this discipleship herself in order to proclaim the Gospel well, he said, explaining that a disciple “follows the Master daily and shares the joy of discipleship with others.”
This does not mean “conquering, mandating, proselytizing,” he stated, but “witnessing, humbling oneself alongside other disciples and offering with love the love that we ourselves received.”
The Pope acknowledged that this is not easy, like climbing a mountain, but requires prayer and effort, as well as a shedding of the unessential. “To proclaim, you must first renounce,” he said.
A credible proclamation of the Gospel requires striving after an “exemplary life,” he said, “a life of service that is capable of rejecting all those material things that shrink the heart and make people indifferent and inward-looking; a life that renounces the useless things that entangle the heart in order to find time for God and others.”
Francis said: “We can ask ourselves: How am I doing in my efforts to go up? Am I able to reject the heavy and useless baggage of worldliness in order to climb the mountain of the Lord?”
Catholics must think about God and about their brothers and sisters, the Pope said, because “this is our mission: to give pure and fresh air to those immersed in the pollution of our world.”
Concluding his homily, he urged Catholics to “have courage!” saying, “Jesus expects so much from you!”
The Lord wants everyone to know they are his beloved children, he said. “Do you want to quell Jesus’ concern? Go and show love to everyone, because your life is a precious mission: It is not a burden to be borne, but a gift to offer. Have courage, and let us fearlessly go forth to all!”
Following Mass, Pope Francis shared a brief message and prayed the Angelus from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
In his message, the Pope said the day’s celebration of World Mission Day is a good time for all the baptized to consider the necessity of their participation in proclaiming the word of God and to make a renewed commitment to do so.
“Believers are called to bring everywhere, with new enthusiasm, the good news that, in Jesus, mercy overcomes sin, hope overcomes fear, fraternity overcomes hostility,” he said. “Christ is our peace, and in him every division is overcome; in him alone is there the salvation of every man and every people.”
Francis added that to share Christ effectively, however, prayer is “indispensable” and asked Catholics to pray in a special way for the Church’s missionaries, including those who go to far places to share God’s word.