Dear Brothers and Sisters, Msgr. Viola and the SPC Sisters,
On this 29th Sunday in Ordinary time, which is also the World Mission Sunday, we are pleased to welcome at the chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature Rev. Msgr. Esteban “Bong” Lo, LRMS – a Lorenzo Ruiz Mission Society Member and National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
Together with Msgr., we welcome as well Ms Margaux Salcedo, responsible for the website “Dominus Est”, purposely created as a tool for evangelization and which, providentially, is celebrating today the first anniversary of its launching.
In light of today’s celebration of World Mission Sunday, allow me meditate with you on the following three points:
First. "Here am I, send me” (Is 6: 8) which is, of course, the theme of today’s World Mission Sunday Message.
Second. "Give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to God what belongs to God”. It is the famous response of the Lord to the Pharisees who planned to set a trap for Jesus.
Third. How to be missionary in the time of COVID?
Here am I, send me! (Is 6, 8)
With the theme of this World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis probably wanted to set a clear connection with the theme of last year’s Extraordinary Missionary Month, which, we may remember, was “Baptized and Sent”.
“Baptized and sent” …”Here I am, send me”. The connection looks quite obvious.
The extraordinary Missionary Month was solemnly concluded here in Manila at the Cuneta Astrodome last year on October 17, 2019, almost on the same day as this year's, at a memorable Mass presided by His Eminence card Tagle.
On that occasion, the future Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples was telling us that to be "baptized and sent” means first of all to have experienced a personal encounter with Jesus in order to be his credible witness, his martyr, with love and charity.
How true it is, when we consider the theme of this year: “Here I am, send me!” (Is 6: 8).
This generous and spontaneous self-volunteering of the Prophet Isaiah was only possible after his personal encounter with the Lord, in which he realized the holiness of God and his unworthiness, and therefore his need to be purified, to have his sins cleansed - let us say to be baptized, in order to be sent.
Missionary par Excellence
This experience of Prophet Isaiah is the same experience of all missionaries, starting with the Missionary par excellence: our Lord Jesus Christ.
After his baptism, Jesus started his ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me, to proclaim the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives” ( Lk 4: 16).
Indeed, Jesus Christ is the sublime model of all missionaries who said to the Father: “Here I am Lord! Send me. I come to do your will”.
As Pope Francis clearly wrote in his Message:
“ ... in the sacrifice of the cross, where the mission of Jesus is accomplished (Jn 19: 28-30), God shows that his love is for each one and every one of us (Jn 19: 26-27). He asks us to be personally willing to be sent, because he himself is Love, love that is always “on mission”, always reaching out in order to give life. Out of this love for us, God the Father sent his Son Jesus ( Jn 3: 16). Jesus is the Father’s Missionary.”
Here I am, Lord! Send me! It is all about Jesus Christ, about imitating, following him as closely as possible, putting him at the center, loving Jesus Christ and being witness of his unconditional love.
“Give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to God what belongs to God."
We may ask: what belongs to Cesar ... and what belongs to God?
A lot has been said about this statement of Christ yet we may just refer to some of the interpretations provided by the Fathers. According to some of the Fathers of the Church – St. Hilary for example - “We are God’s coin on which the divine image is stamped; give therefore your money to Caesar but preserve a conscience void of offense for God, a spotless and unblemished heart for God”.
What is this unblemished and spotless gift we need to render to God? It is Jesus Christ our Lord, as we pray in the 1st Eucharistic prayer:
“We your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty, from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation”: “Here I am, Lord, send me!”
We are sent as missionaries with the most precious gift that goes beyond any dream: Jesus Christ.
It is all about giving Jesus Christ to the world and not less than Jesus Christ because nothing else can quench the thirst for happiness and peace. It is also about giving the world to Jesus Christ, putting Jesus Christ at the center so that His unconditional love may permeate all the existing reality.
How to be a missionary in time of COVID?
In the Pontifical Message, the Holy Father addressed this question in these words:
“Understanding what God is saying to us at this time of pandemic also represents a challenge for the Church’s mission. Illness, suffering, fear and isolation challenge us. The poverty of those who die alone, the abandoned, those who have lost their jobs and income, the homeless and those who lack food challenge us. Being forced to observe social distancing and to stay home invites us to rediscover that we need social relationships as well as our communal relationship with God. Far from increasing mistrust and indifference, this situation should make us even more attentive to our way of relating to others […] The impossibility of gathering as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist has led us to share the experience of the many Christian communities that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday. In all this, God’s question: “Whom shall I send?” is addressed once more to us and awaits a generous and convincing response: “Here I am Lord, send me!” (Is 6: 8).
Blessed Carlo Acutis: Patron for Online Evangelization
In this regard, Blessed Carlo Acutis can be a model for us and, I would say, in a special way for those, like the promoters of “Dominus Est” (DominusEst.PH), who aim to use the social media as powerful tools for evangelization.
Perhaps Blessed Carlo Acutis could be proposed as another Patron of website promoters and of all those who want to evangelize through the media and especially of "Dominus est”, as you celebrate today the 1st anniversary of your launching.
Carlo Acutis, as all saints, is teaching us one simple and yet unwavering truth: the true missionary is the saint, as also St John Paul II taught us in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio (90-91). We are saints, we are ipso facto missionaries. If we are missionaries, we are called to be saints.
Carlo Acutis was best known for documenting Eucharistic miracles. Once more, Jesus Christ is at the center.
When You Cannot Walk, Surf
At this point, let me remind us of the words of Prophet Isaiah as quoted by St Paul:
How can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news ! (Romans 10, 14-15).
How can we have beautiful feet which bring good news when we cannot go out any more, when we are just confined within the walls of ours homes?
We may not be able to use our feet to go around our streets, but still, we may ride and surf on the waves of social Media, like Blessed Carlo Acutis, for the Propagation of the Faith. In this regard, this time of COVID is an opportunity, a favorable time for evangelization. Any time in History is a good time to preach the Gospel and this time of COVID is no exception.
Here I am Lord, send me ... Give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar and to God what belongs to God ... How to be missionary in time of COVID? May Blessed Carlo Acutis and may our Blessed Mother Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ, the Missionary of the Father, intercede for us, so that, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we may be holy and generous missionaries, for all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
Msgr. Julien Kabore
Charges d' Affaires, Apostolic Nunciature
18 October 2020
World Mission Sunday
DominusEst.PH First Year Anniversary