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ALL ARE CALLED TO BE AUTHENTIC APOSTLES

Missionary mandate concerns all the baptized, Holy Father says in Mission Sunday Message

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, ... he has anointed me to preach good new to the poor;" (Lk 4:18) "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." (Lk 4:43)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, World Mission Sunday is an important celebration in the life of the Church. Indeed we may say that its importance increases the nearer we come to the Year 2000. The Church, aware as she is that, apart from Christ, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved," (Acts 4:12) today more than ever, makes her own the words of the Apostle: "Woe to me if do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16)

Jesus Christ, sent by the Father, the first Missionary, is the only Saviour of the world. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; as he was yesterday, he is today and will be tomorrow, until the end of time, when all things will be united in him. The salvation brought by Jesus penetrates the intimate depth of the human person, freeing us from the Evil One, from sin and from eternal death. Salvation is the coming of "new life" in Christ. It is a gratuitous gift of God who seeks our free adherence: in fact it must be won, day after day, "through abnegation and the Cross." This calls for our personal, untiring co-operation through the will's docile acceptance of God's plan. This is the way to reach the safe and definitive haven which Christ won through his Cross. There is no alternative liberation, through which we may obtain true peace and joy, that can only come from an encounter with God-Truth: "You will learn the truth and the truth will make you free." (Jn 8:32)

Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel
This, in brief, is the "good news" which Christ was sent to bring to the "poor", to the captives of so many forms of slavery in this world, to the "afflicted" of every era and latitude, to all people, since this salvation is for every person, and every man and woman on earth has the right to be told about it: it is a matter of our eternal destiny. "Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved," (Rom 10:13) St. Paul reminds us.

No one however, can call upon Jesus, believe in him, unless they are told about him, unless they hear his name. (cf Rom 10:14-15) Hence the supreme command which the Master gave to his disciples before he returned to the Father: "Go...teach" (Mt 28:19); "Preach...He who believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mk 16:16) Hence the task entrusted to the Church, sent to carry on his mission, as a "universal sacrament" of salvation a "channel of the gift of grace," through time for the whole of humanity.

Seeing the many people who, although loved by the Father, have not yet been reached by the Good News of salvation, Christians cannot fail to note in their hearts the urgency which shook the Apostle Paul, causing him to cry out "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16) To a certain degree, in fact, each of us is personally responsible, before God, for those millions of people who are "without faith."

The size of the task and the recognition of the inadequacy of one's energies may at times lead to discouragement, but we need not fear: we are not alone. The Lord himself reassures us: "I am with you always; yes, until the end of time" (Mt 28:20); "I will not leave you orphans" (Jn 14:18); "...if I do not go away the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (Jn 16:7)

We are missionaries because of what we are
An exemplary answer to the universal call to take responsibility for missionary activity was given in the past by St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, of whose death this year we celebrate the centenary. The life and teaching of Teresa demonstrate the close bond between mission and contemplation. In fact, there can be no mission without a life of intense prayer and communion with the Lord and his sacrifice on the Cross.

To sit at the feet of the Master (cf Lk 10:39), is without a doubt the beginning of all authentic apostolic activity. But if this is the point of departure, there follows then a long journey with its obligatory stages of sacrifice and the cross. To encounter the "living" Christ means also to meet the Christ who "thirsts", the Christ nailed to the Cross who down through the centuries cries out his ardent "thirst" to save souls. (cf Jn 19:28)

And to quench the thirst of God-Love, and also our own thirst, there is no other way than to love and let ourselves be loved. To love, assimilating deeply Christ's ardent desire "that all people may be saved;" (1 Tim 2:4) to let ourselves be loved, letting him use us according to "his ways which are not our ways" (cf Is 55:8) so that every man and woman on earth may come to know him and be saved.

Certainly, not everyone is called to set out on mission: "we are missionaries above all because of what we are...even before we become missionaries in word or deed." It is not important "where" but "how." We can be authentic apostles, in a most fruitful way, even at home, at work, in a hospital bed, in a convent cloister... : what counts is that the heart burn with that divine charity which - alone - is able to transform into light, fire and new life for the whole of the Mystical Body and to the ends of the earth, not only physical and moral sufferings, but also our daily fatigue.

Dear brothers and sisters, I hope with all my heart that on the threshold of the new millennium the whole Church will experience a new impulse of missionary commitment. May every baptized person make this commitment his own and try to live, as best he can in his own personal situation, the programme of the patron saint of the missions: "In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love...and so I will be everything!"

May Mary, Mother and Queen of the Apostles, ...today inspire believers to imitate her solidarity, her loving concern for the vast field of missionary activity.

In fact, a literal translation of the Greek expression "among his possessions" does not so much refer to material possessions since John - as St. Augustine observes - "possessed nothing of his own," but rather to the spiritual goods or gifts received from Christ: grace (Jn 1:16), the Word (Jn 12:48; 17:8), the Spirit, (Jn 7:39; 14:17) the Eucharist (Jn 6:32-58) ... Among these gifts which come to him from the fact that he is loved by Jesus, the disciple accepts Mary as his mother, establishing a profound communion of life with her (cf Redemptoris Mater, 45, note 130).

May every Christian, after the beloved disciple's example, "take Mary into his house" and make room for her in his own daily life, recognizing her providential role in the journey of salvation.

Pope John Paul II
General Audience, April 7, 1997

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