“We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
This verse is the theme of this year’s World Mission Sunday, a Sunday set aside to recognize our common responsibility as Catholic Christians to evangelize the world.
World Mission Sunday was first instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 and is celebrated on the next to last Sunday in the month of October.
(In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the observance will begin with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Nelson Perez at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 23 in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul.)
Not only do we remind ourselves of our call to evangelization, but a special collection is taken to share in this responsibility throughout the world.
As Catholic Christians we seem to be most comfortable sharing our faith by our acts of service. This year Pope Francis challenges us to share our stories. Stories is how the church began.
Two thousand years ago, the apostles and others in that first group of Jesus’ followers told the story of how they first met and felt loved by Jesus. Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene told their stories to anyone who would listen. Sharing these personal experiences is how the good news of Jesus was spread, building our church from just a few to many.
Pope Francis reminds us in his 2021 Message for World Mission Sunday that these first Christians faced hardship and hostility, marginalization and imprisonment, and yet they still shared these stories.
How could they not, when they had received such grace? They endured hardships but clung to Christ. Pope Francis encourages us to find this strength in Jesus, just as they did.
This pandemic has brought out many discouraging stories. The morning paper, nightly news and social media are full of stories that divide and isolate us … even as we look to them for connection. But our faith is one of hope and freedom! We need not forget this.
There is power in sharing our stories of faith. Not just for those listening but for the speaker as well. We remember God’s goodness to us. We remember how he met us in dark places and provided for us.
As we articulate his goodness to others, we experience his love all over again. And the more we share our story, the more details we remember and the better we become at sharing that story.
Think of some of your favorite family stories. Perhaps how you met your husband. Or when your parents brought home your younger sibling. When you share these stories over dinner or with a new friend, you feel the emotions all over again. You laugh and cry tears of joy, and the love is palpable.
We have all heard the statistics. How Mass attendance is declining. How young adults are not continuing in the faith. How parishes are being consolidated. Many young people say they do not turn to the church because they do not find it relevant. They find the church lacking in authenticity.
When we share our faith in stories, we regain that authenticity. The world will see we are genuine. When we share our faith in stories, the world meets Jesus in a new way.
This World Mission Sunday, join Pope Francis’ invitation to speak about what we have seen and heard. Share our living and vibrant Christ. Think of the first time you experienced his grace in your life. Or a time when you were amazed at God’s goodness. Or just today, what do you want to thank God for? Talk about what you love.
Get used to sharing these stories. If you need to, practice with your family or parishioners first. Remind yourself what it feels like to be loved by God, how you want other people to feel that love, how that love makes you care for other people.
After a year of darkness, it is time to share our glorious Light. Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Lk 10:2). Renew your commitment to evangelization. Share the story of how Jesus brings light to your life.
Gonzalez is a freelance writer. Her website is www.shemaiahgonzalez.com.
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