VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “Mission is a passion for Jesus and at the same time a passion for his people,” Pope Francis said in his message for World Mission Sunday.
The two concerns always go hand in hand, he said, because just as a Christian knows others need to hear the Gospel, he or she knows Jesus calls all his disciples to share his love.
Because World Mission Sunday, which will be celebrated Oct. 18 in most dioceses, falls within the Year of Consecrated Life, Pope Francis focused his message specifically on the missionary work of religious orders.
Just as missionary outreach is essential to the church’s identity, he said, those men and women called to follow Jesus most closely must follow him in mission.
“Mission is part of the ‘grammar’ of faith, something essential for those who listen to the voice of the Spirit who whispers, ‘Come’ and ‘Go forth,'” he wrote.
The power of Christian witness lies not in words, but in lives, the pope said.
“By the vow of poverty,” he said, consecrated men and women “choose to follow Christ in his preference for the poor, not ideologically, but in the same way that he identified himself with the poor: by living like them amid the uncertainties of everyday life and renouncing all claims to power.”
Living with and like the poor, he said, religious “become brothers and sisters of the poor, bringing them the witness of the joy of the Gospel and a sign of God’s love.”
“The central ideal of mission is Jesus Christ” and “this ideal demands the total gift of oneself to the proclamation of the Gospel,” the pope said. “On this point there can be no compromise: those who by God’s grace accept the mission are called to live the mission.”
Pope Francis asked missionary orders to be open to welcoming young people and associates who want to express their own missionary vocation, although only for a specified period of time, and he encouraged young Catholics to consider consecrating their lives to a missionary vocation.
He told young people they are “capable of courageous witness and generous deeds, even when these are countercultural. Do not allow others to rob you of the ideal of a true mission, of following Jesus through the total gift of yourself,” he said.
“Remember that even before being necessary for those who have not yet heard it, the proclamation of the Gospel is a necessity for those who love the master,” the pope wrote.