VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- In his message for World Mission Sunday, John Paul II emphasizes that the Church can only carry out its missionary mandate in tandem with the Eucharist.
The theme of World Mission Sunday, to be held Oct. 24, is “Eucharist and Mission,” two realities that are “inseparable,” as the Pope points out in his message, recalling key concepts of his 2003 encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.”
In that encyclical, the Holy Father says that “the Eucharist builds the Church and the Church makes the Eucharist” noting “how the mission of the Church is a continuity of the mission of Christ and draws spiritual energy from communion with his Body and Blood.”
Indeed, “the goal of the Eucharist is precisely, ‘the communion of mankind with Christ and, in him, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit,'” he writes in his message for Mission Sunday.
In the message the Pope further explains that “when we take part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice we understand more profoundly the universality of redemption and, consequently, the urgency of the Church’s mission.”
The program of the mission “has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem,” the Holy Father states.
“Around Christ in the Eucharist the Church grows as the people, temple and family of God: one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic” and at the same time “understands better her character of universal sacrament of salvation and visible reality with a hierarchical structure,” he continues.
“Certainly ‘no Christian community can be built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the most Holy Eucharist,'” he states, quoting the 2003 encyclical.
“To live the Eucharist, it is necessary, as well, to spend much time in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament, something which I myself experience every day drawing from it strength, consolation and assistance,” John Paul II says.
“The bread and wine, fruit of human hands, transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the body and blood of Christ, become a pledge of the ‘new heaven and new earth,’ announced by the Church in her daily mission,” the Pope states. “In Christ, whom we adore present in the mystery of the Eucharist, the father uttered his final word with regard to humanity and human history.”
“How could the Church fulfill her vocation without cultivating a constant relationship with the Eucharist, without nourishing herself with this food which sanctifies, without founding her missionary activity on this indispensable support?” the Pontiff asks.
“To evangelize the world there is need of apostles who are ‘experts’ in the celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Eucharist,” he notes.
“Christ died for all; and for all is the gift of salvation which the Eucharist renders sacramentally present in the course of history,” John Paul says. “To this banquet and sacrifice all men and women are invited so they may share in the very life of Christ.”
“Nourished by him, believers come to understand that the missionary task means being ‘acceptable as an offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit,’ in order to be more and more ‘one, in heart and mind’ and to be witnesses of his love to the ends of the earth,” the Pope writes.
In this way, the Church, the People of God, “reliving every day the Sacrifice of the altar awaits Christ’s coming in glory” and “with renewed faith the Church repeats her desire for the final encounter with the One who comes to bring his plan of universal salvation to completion.”
“The Holy Spirit with invisible but powerful working, guides the Christian people on this daily spiritual itinerary on which they inevitably encounter difficulties and experience the mystery of the Cross,” the Holy Father states.
“The Eucharist is the comfort and the pledge of final triumph for those who fight evil and sin; it is the ‘bread of life’ which sustains those who, in turn, become ‘bread broken’ for others, paying at times even with martyrdom their fidelity to the Gospel,” he adds.
“At the end of every Mass … all should feel they are sent as ‘missionaries of the Eucharist’ to carry to every environment the great gift received,” he observes. “In fact, anyone who encounters Christ in the Eucharist cannot fail to proclaim through his or her life the merciful love of the Redeemer.”