VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- In his message for World Mission Sunday, John Paul II says that the Church’s missionary commitment is an “urgency” that is inseparable from the Eucharist.
“Gathered around the altar, the Church understands better her origin and her missionary mandate,” the Pope says in his message, published today by the Holy See.
The theme of this year’s World Mission Sunday, which will be held Oct. 24, is “Eucharist and Mission.” Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presented the papal message in the Vatican press office.
“The Church’s missionary activity is an urgency also at the beginning of the third millennium, as I have often said,” John Paul II states in his message.
The mission “is still only beginning and we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service,” he exhorts.
This call to share the “thirst” for souls that must be saved — the “thirst” of the Redeemer — is addressed to the “entire people of God at every moment of its pilgrimage through history,” the Holy Father adds.
“This thirst to save souls has always been strongly experienced by the saints,” he writes. “It suffices to think for example of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, patroness of the missions, and of Bishop Comboni, great apostle of Africa, whom recently I had the joy of raising to the honor of the altars.”
For the Pope the “social and religious challenges facing humanity in our day call believers to renew their missionary fervor.”
“Yes! It is necessary to relaunch the mission ‘ad gentes’ with courage, starting with the proclamation of Christ, Redeemer of every human person,” the Holy Father states.
He observes that the “International Eucharistic Congress, which will be celebrated at Guadalajara in Mexico in the coming month of October, the missionary month, will be an extraordinary opportunity to grow in missionary awareness around the Table of the Body and Blood of Christ.”
The Pope continues: “In addition to reflection on the bond that exists between the Eucharistic mystery and the mystery of the Church, this year there will be an eloquent reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary, because of the occurrence of the 150th anniversary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.”
“Let us contemplate the Eucharist with the eyes of Mary,” he states. “Confiding in the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the Church offers Christ, the Bread of Salvation, to all peoples that they may recognize him and accept him as the only Savior of mankind.”
“Mary was ‘redeemed in an especially sublime manner by reason of the merits of her Son. Gazing upon Mary, we come to know that transforming power present in the Eucharist. In her we see the world renewed in love,'” the Pope continues.
Moreover, Mary is “the first ‘tabernacle’ in history” who “shows us and offers us Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. If ‘the Church and the Eucharist are inseparably united, the same ought to be said of Mary and the Eucharist,” the Pontiff adds.
“I hope that the happy coinciding of the International Eucharistic Congress with the 150th anniversary of the definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, may offer the faithful, parishes, and missionary institutes an opportunity to strengthen their missionary zeal so that in every community there may always be ‘a genuine hunger for the Eucharist,'” he concludes.