"Mission Is Proclamation Of Forgiveness," John Paul II Says

Papal Message for World Mission Day

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2002 (Zenit.org).-Here is the Holy Father´s message for the next World Mission Day, to be held on Sunday, October 20, with the theme «Mission is Proclamation of Forgiveness.»

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. The evangelizing mission of the Church is essentially the announcement of God´s love, mercy, and forgiveness revealed to mankind through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is the proclamation of the good news that God loves us and wants all people united in his loving mercy, he forgives us, and asks us to forgive others even for the greatest offenses. This is the Word of reconciliation entrusted to us because, as Saint Paul says, «God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.» (2 Cor 5:19) These words are the echo and a reminder of the supreme cry from the heart of Christ on the cross «Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.» (Lk 23:34) This, in synthesis, is the fundamental contents of Mission Sunday, which we will celebrate on Sunday, October 20, with the stimulating theme: «Mission is Proclamation of Forgiveness.» Although this event is repeated every year, with the passing of time it loses none of its special significance and importance, because the mission is our response to Jesus´ supreme command: «Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.» (Mt 28:19-20)

2. At the beginning of the third Christian millennium the missionary duty is ever more urgent, because as I said in the Redemptoris Missio encyclical «The number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly on the increase. Indeed, since the end of the Council it has almost doubled. When we consider this immense portion of humanity which is loved by the Father and for whom he sent his Son, the urgency of the Church´s mission is obvious.» (n. 3)

With the great apostle and evangelizer Saint Paul, we wish to repeat: «If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! … I have been entrusted with a stewardship.» (1 Cor 9:16-17) Only God´s love, able to make brothers and sisters of people of all races and cultures, can heal the painful divisions, ideological conflict, economic unbalance, and violence which still oppresses humanity.

We are all aware of the horrible wars and revolutions which bloodied the last century and the conflicts which, unfortunately, still afflict the world almost endemically. However, undeniable also is a longing of men and women who, despite dire spiritual and material poverty, have a deep thirst for God and for his loving mercy. The Lord´s call to proclaim the Good News is still
valid today: indeed it is ever more urgent.

3. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte I underlined the importance of contemplating the face of Christ suffering and glorious. The heart of the Christian message is the proclamation of the paschal mystery of Christ, crucified and risen. Contemplating the face of the Crucified one in agony «we confront the most paradoxical aspect of his mystery, as it emerges in his last hour, on the Cross» (n. 25). In the Cross God revealed to us all his love. The Cross is the key that gives free access to «a wisdom not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away. We speak of God´s wisdom, mysterious and hidden.» (1 Cor 2:6-7)

The Cross, in which the glorious face of the Risen Christ already shines, introduces us to the fullness of Christian life and perfect love, because it reveals God´s longing to share with mankind his very life, his love, his holiness. In the light of this mystery the Church, remembering the words of the Lord: «Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,» (See Mt 5:48) understands ever more clearly that her mission would be senseless if it did not lead to fullness of Christian life, that is to perfect love and holiness.

Contemplating the Cross, we learn to live with humility and forgiveness, peace and communion. This was the experience of Saint Paul who writes to the Ephesians: «I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.» (Eph. 4:1-3) And to the Colossians he adds: «Put on then, as God´s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another´ as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one bode. And be thankful.» (Col. 3:12-15)

4. Dearest Brothers and Sisters, the cry of Jesus on the cross (see Mt 27:46) is not the anguish of a desperate man, it is the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father for the salvation of all mankind. From the cross Jesus shows the conditions which enable us to forgive. To the hatred with which his persecutors nailed him to the Cross, he responds with a prayer for them. He not only forgives them, he continues to love them, to want their good, and to intercede for them. His death becomes the full
realization of Love.

Faced with the great mystery of the Cross we can only kneel in adoration. «In order to bring man back to the Father´s face, Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but he had to burden himself with the «face» of sin. ´For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.´ (2 Cor 5:21)» (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 25)

The total forgiveness of Christ, also for his persecutors, is the beginning of the new justice of the Kingdom of God for everyone. During the Last Supper, the Redeemer said to his Apostles: «I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.» (Jn 13:34-35)

5. The Risen Christ gives peace to his disciples. The Church, faithful to the Lord´s command, continues to proclaim and spread his peace. Through evangelization, believers help people to realize that we are all brothers and sisters and, as pilgrims on this earth, although on different paths, we are all on our way to the common Homeland which God, through ways known only to Him, does not cease to indicate to us. The main road of mission is sincere dialogue (see Ad Gentes 7, Nostra aetate 2); «dialogue does not originate from tactical concerns of self-interest,» (Redemptoris Missio, 56) nor is it an end in itself. Dialogue, instead, speaks to others with respect and understanding, stating the principles in which we believe and proclaiming with love the most profound truths of the faith which are joy, hope, and meaning of life. In fact, dialogue is the realization of a spiritual impulse leading «to inner purification and conversion which, if pursed with docility to the Holy Spirit, will be spiritually fruitful.» (ibid 56) Commitment for attentive and respectful dialogue is a conditio sine qua non for authentic witness of God´s saving love.

This dialogue is linked closely with readiness to forgive, because a person who forgives opens the hearts of others and learns to love and understand others, entering into harmony with them. Because the act of pardoning, after the example of Jesus, challenges and opens hearts, heals the wounds of sin and division, and creates real communion.

6. The celebration of Mission Sunday offers everyone an opportunity for self-examination on the demands of God´s infinite l
ove. Love which calls for faith; love which tells us to put all our trust in Him. «Without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.» (Heb. 11,6)

On this annual recurrence we are called to pray assiduously for the missions and to cooperate with every means in the Church´s activity all over the world to build up the Kingdom of God, «an eternal and universal Kingdom: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace» (Preface for the Feast of Christ the King). We are called to bear witness first of all with our life to our total adhesion to Christ and to his Gospel.

Yes, we must never be ashamed of the Gospel and never be afraid of proclaiming that we are Christians, never hiding our faith. Instead we must continue to speak to extend the spaces for proclaiming salvation, because Jesus has promised to be with us forever and he is always in the midst of his disciples.

Mission Sunday, the feast day of Mission, helps us discover the value of our personal and community vocation. It stimulates us to reach out to «the least of my brothers» (Mt 25:40) through missionaries in every part of the world. This is the task of the Pontifical Mission Societies which have always been at the service of the Church´s mission, ensuring that the least ones are not lacking those who break with them the bread of the Word and continue to bring them the gift of inexhaustible love that gushes from the
heart of the Savior.

Dearest Brothers and Sisters, let us entrust this commitment to proclaim the Gospel and, indeed, the whole evangelizing activity of the Church, to Most Holy Mary, Queen of Missions. May she accompany us on our journey of discovering, proclaiming, and witnessing to the love of God who forgives and gives peace to mankind.

With these sentiments, to all missionaries throughout the world, to those who accompany them with prayers and fraternal help, to Christian communities of ancient and new foundation, I gladly send my Apostolic Blessing, invoking upon you all the unfailing protection of the Lord.

From the Vatican, May 19 2002, Solemnity of Pentecost
John Paul II
[Translation distributed by the Vatican missionary agency «Fides» (Fides.org).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation