Friday, October 14, 2016 - Updated: 7:00 am
Here’s the news, though it really isn’t news to anyone paying attention. Together we are a mission church right here in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. We mission to each other. We mission to our sisters and brothers in Chimbote, Peru. We mission to the world.
Every year in October, the church universal celebrates World Mission Sunday. This year, it is Oct. 23! Way back when, like most kids growing up in the days of the Eisenhower and Kennedy presidencies, I wondered what I would look like when I grew up, what I would be doing and where I might be. In Ambridge, my childhood home? In Pittsburgh? In the USA? Or in another part of the world? But one thing I did picture was teaching the faith and serving the people. The rest is history!
Speaking of history, there is a wonderful quote from Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215). He was explaining how Jesus made use of ordinary stuff to teach the extraordinary. "The Lord ate from a common bowl, and asked the disciples to sit on the grass. He washed their feet, with a towel wrapped around his waist — he was the Lord of the universe! He drank water from a jug of earthenware with the Samaritan woman. Christ made use, not extravagance, his aim."
That is the key to understanding mission. Mission does truly begin at home with the simple moments of our lives. It is what we do with the talents and resources we have as gifts from God that makes the difference.
We have been unveiling On Mission for The Church Alive! right here in our own diocese. We know that means we have to mission to each other — to strengthen and to build The Church Alive! in and for each other — to prepare us to do so by the church evangelizing! We mission to others in our own neighborhoods, our own communities.
From there, our call to mission reaches out to our country. We have discovered in this election year how much our country remains mission territory. The faith has slipped away from too many areas of our land — demographically, culturally, spiritually. Shouting and insulting, stereotype and obscenity make up the language of the times while violence always crowds in at the edges. Conversion is needed, that’s for sure. Our country needs our mission spirit now more than ever.
Then we have our direct mission bridge in the Church of Pittsburgh. In just a few weeks — Friday, Oct. 28 — we will celebrate and honor the life-giving, life-saving and life-sustaining medical missionaries in Chimbote, Peru, at our annual dinner. (To register for the dinner or donate, visit the diocesan website at www.diopitt.org and click on the Chimbote Foundation flag on the top of the front page.) This is our 51st annual dinner that helps us to sustain and grow this bridge of love and hope between our diocese and Chimbote.
Finally, there is our missionary outreach to the rest of the world. This is where every follower of Jesus is called to the mission field, which begins in our living room. It extends to a barrio in South America. It reaches a new parish in the Slovak Republic.
We all can’t be missionaries traveling the globe. But as I saw myself back in Ambridge as a little boy, our prayers and financial help through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith support the work of the mission church. It is a witness to Christ and service to the poor.
Thanks for your generosity
Our dear Pope Francis wrote a letter for this year’s Mission Sunday, the 90th year of this universal celebration. Let me echo his words: "Let us not close our hearts within our own particular concerns, but let us open them to all of humanity." I am asking you to open your hearts on World Mission Sunday at your parish to send God’s love in a tangible form to people in every corner of the globe. You can also continue this connection with the missions all year long through MISSIO, online at missio.org or the MISSIO app on your phone."
The Holy Father went on to say: "All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person. This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars and humanitarian crises still need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace (to others, many others). The mandate of the Gospel to ‘go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20) has not ceased."
And so, in light of what Pope Francis had to say, join with me to contribute generously on World Mission Sunday. Our gifts will go:
• To the Americas, where catechists travel to remote areas to bring families the Good News of God’s mercy;
• To Europe, where new churches are being built to welcome faith communities experiencing renewal after years of persecution;
• To Asia, where 6 million children receive an education from religious sisters in 16,000 church-run elementary schools;
• To the Pacific Islands, where 1,000 young men are preparing for the priesthood so they can bring the Lord’s healing hope and peace to those in need;
• To Africa, where those who are sick receive loving care at 6,400 Catholic hospitals and small clinics.
As always, I thank you for your generosity, your help to the poor.
As I stand at this point in my life, much as I did so many years ago as a kid in Ambridge, I ask myself questions, albeit different than the ones I asked myself as a youngster: How much longer will I be alive? What more good can I do? Will I make it to heaven?
The rest is history yet to be made. But one thing is for certain. The same Holy Spirit who got me here will get me to the future. The same is true for each and all of you as well.
All of which is what it means to be On Mission for The Church Alive!