World Mission Sunday

By   October 6, 2015


Anecdote: # 1: “I have no other plan.” S.D. Gordon has a beautiful story about

the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. When the grand welcome ceremony was

over, the Archangel Gabriel approached Jesus to resolve  his doubts. He said, “I

know that only very few in Palestine are aware of the great work of human

salvation you have accomplished through your suffering, death and Resurrection.

But the whole world should know and appreciate it and become your disciples,

acknowledging you as their Lord and Savior. What is your plan of action?”  Jesus

answered, “I have told all my Apostles to tell other people about me and preach

my message through their lives. That’s all.” “Suppose they don’t do that,” Gabriel

responded. “What’s your Plan B?” Jesus replied, “I have no other plan; I am

counting on them.” On this World Mission Sunday, the Church reminds us that

Jesus is counting on each one of us to make him known loved and accepted by

others around us.

# 2: “We Wanted To Be Like Them” A striking story tells about one remote area

in western Sudan. Expatriate missionaries, especially priests, Brothers and

Sisters, had labored there for many years with few visible results. Then

expatriate lay missionaries — married and single — came to that area and soon

many Sudanese people become Catholics. A Sudanese elder explained: “When

we saw the priests and Sisters living separately and alone we didn’t want to be

like them. But when we saw Catholic families — men, women and children —

living happily together, we wanted to be like them.” In our family-oriented African

society, married missionary couples with children have a powerful and unique

witness and credibility. (Fr. Joseph G. Healey, M.M., a Maryknoll missionary)

# 3:  “God Is Like a Large Baobab Tree” One day my pickup truck broke down

on the road from Maswa to Bariadi in western Tanzania. After I had waited for a

half hour a big Coca-Cola truck came by and the driver named Musa kindly

towed my vehicle to the next town — a common occurrence of friendship and

mutual help on our poor dirt roads. Part of the time I sat in his big cab and we

talked about, of all things, religion. Musa was a Muslim who belonged to the

Nyamwezi Ethnic Group from Tabora. In commenting on the tensions between

Christians and Muslims in Tanzania he told me: “There is only one God. God is

like one large tree with different branches that represent the different religions of

Islam, Christianity, African Religion and so forth. These branches are part of the

same family of God so we should work together.” Simply put, Musa taught me an

African metaphor of world religions and interreligious dialogue. (Fr. Healey).

Introduction: Over one billion Catholics all over the world observe today as

the 89th World Mission Sunday. This annual observance was instituted 89 years

ago in 1926 by a Papal decree issued by Pope Pius XI. Every year since then,

the universal Church has dedicated the month of October to reflection on and

prayer for the missions. On World Mission Sunday, Catholics gather to celebrate

the Eucharist and to contribute to a collection for the work of evangelization


around the world. This annual celebration gives us a chance to reflect on the

importance of mission work for the life of the Church. It reminds us that we are

one with the Church around the world and that we are all committed to carrying

on the mission of Christ, however different our situations may be. The greatest

missionary challenge that we face at home is a secular and consumerist culture

in which God is not important, moral values are relative and institutional religions

are unnecessary.

The Holy Fathers’ Mission Sunday messages: It is because of the

modern challenges to evangelization that, in his World Mission Sunday Message

2003, Pope St. John Paul II  called on the Church to become “more

contemplative, holy, and missionary-oriented, grounding its work on fervent

prayer.” Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2006 message, stressed the importance of

Christian charity in action as the keynote of evangelization.   “All the Churches for

all the World” was the Pope’s theme for World Mission Sunday, 2007. Pope

Benedict encouraged the sending of missionaries from Church communities

which have a large number of vocations to serve those communities of the West

which experience a shortage of vocations.  In 2008, the Pope encouraged

everyone “to take renewed awareness of the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel”

in this Pauline Year, following the example and imbibing the missionary zeal of

St. Paul, the greatest missionary of all times.  In 2009, the Pope clarified that the

“the goal of the Church’s mission was to illumine all peoples with the light of the

Gospel as they journey through history towards God.” He asked all Christians to

redouble their commitment to participate in the missionary activity that is an

essential component of the life of the Church. Pope Francis, in his first World

Mission Sunday message (2013), challenged us to proclaim courageously and in

every situation the Gospel of Christ, a message of hope, reconciliation and

communion, a proclamation of God’s closeness, His mercy and His salvation,

and a proclamation that the power of God’s love is able to overcome the

darkness of evil and guide us on the path of goodness. In the light of the

conclusion of the Year of Faith, the Pope offers his thoughts about Faith: the

necessity of sharing it, some roadblocks missionary efforts can encounter, and

the importance of generously responding to the missionary call of the Holy Spirit.

In his 2014 Mission Sunday message, Pope Francis challenges the Church to

become a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples and the source of rebirth for

our world through the intercession of Mary, the model of humble and joyful

evangelization. In his 2015 message Pope Francis says, “The Church’s mission

is faced by the challenge of meeting the needs of all people to return to their

roots and to protect the values of their respective cultures. This means knowing

and respecting other traditions and philosophical systems, and realizing that all

peoples and cultures have the right to be helped from within their own traditions

to enter into the mystery of God’s wisdom and to accept the Gospel of Jesus,

who is light and transforming strength for all cultures.”

The missionary Church: The Church, according to Vatican Council II, is

“missionary” in her very nature because her founder, Jesus Christ, was the first


missionary.   God the Father sent God the Son into the world with a message.

 This message, called the Gospel or the “Good News,” is explicitly stated in John

3:16: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that

everyone who believes in him may not die, but have eternal life.”  John further

clarifies Jesus’ message in his epistle: “God sent his only Son into the world, so

that we might live through him.”(I Jn 4: 9).  St. Paul writes to Timothy about the

Church’s mission: “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the

knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4). Thus, the evangelizing mission of the

Church is essentially the announcement of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and

salvation as these are revealed to mankind through the life, death, and

Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The Gospels show us how Jesus

demonstrated this all-embracing and unconditional love of God by his life,

suffering, death, and Resurrection.

 Why should we preach? Jesus, the first missionary, made a permanent

arrangement for inviting all men throughout the ages to share God’s love and

salvation:  “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 and teaching them to

observe everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19).  This is why the Council

Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared that the Church of Christ “is

missionary in its origin and nature.”  Hence, it follows that the mission of the

Church is the mission of every member of the Church, and is not reserved for the

priests, the religious, and the active missionaries alone.    Thus, every Christian

is a missionary with a message to share — the message of God’s love, liberation,

and eternal salvation.

How are we to accomplish this goal?   The most powerful means of fulfilling

this goal is by living a truly   Christian life — a life filled with love, mercy, kindness,

compassion and a forgiving spirit.   Mr. Gandhi used to say:   “My life is my

message.”  He often challenged the Christian missionaries to observe the

“apostolate of the rose.”   A rose doesn’t preach. It simply radiates its

fragrance and attracts every one to it by its irresistible beauty.   Hence, the most

important thing is not the Gospel we preach, but the life we live.  This is how the

early Christians evangelized.   Their Gentile neighbors used to say:  “See how

these Christians love one another.”   The Christ they recognized and accepted

was the Christ who lived in each Christian.

Prayer is the second means of missionary work.  Jesus said: “Without me you

can do nothing” (John 15: 5). Therefore, prayer is necessary for anyone who

wishes to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.   In his message for World Mission

Sunday, 2004, Pope St. John Paul II stressed the fact that the Holy Spirit would

help us to become witnesses of Christ only in an atmosphere of prayer.  Since

missionaries are weak human beings and since witnessing to Christ through life

is not easy, we need to support them by our prayers. In his message for 2007,

Pope Benedict reminds us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”, the


Lord said; “pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his

harvest” (Lk 10: 2).

All missionary efforts also require financial support because the love of God can

often be explained to the poor only by providing them with food and means of

livelihood.  The sick can experience the healing power of Jesus only through the

dedicated service of doctors, nurses, and health care workers.   Hospitals and

nursing homes require funding.  The use of expensive modern media of

communication is often necessary to bring Christ’s message of love and

liberation more effectively to non-Christians in the modern world.

Hence, on this Mission Sunday, let us learn to appreciate our missionary

obligation and support the Church’s missionary activities by leading transparent

Christian lives, by fervent prayers, and by generous donations. Pope Benedict

XVI concluded his 2006 Mission Sunday message thus: “May the Virgin Mary,

who collaborated actively in the beginning of the Church’s mission with her

presence beneath the Cross and her prayers in the Upper Room, sustain their

action and help believers in Christ to be ever more capable of true love, so that

they become sources of living water in a spiritually thirsting world.”


# 1: 3) 97% of the world has heard of Coca-Cola

72% of the world has seen a can of Coca-Cola

51% of the world has tasted a can of Coca-Cola

Coke has only been around 111 years (2015).

If God had given the task of world evangelization to the Coke company it would

probably be done by now.

# 2:  Did Jesus Christ Ever Kill a Lion? A story is told about a missionary who

went to a remote area in Northern Tanzania to proclaim the Gospel among the

Maasai tribes who were warriors.  One day he was explaining to a group of

adults the saving activity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He told how Jesus is

the Savior and Redeemer of all humankind. When he finished, a Maasai elder

slowly stood up and said to the missionary: “You have spoken well, but I want to

learn more about this great person Jesus Christ. Now I have three questions

about Jesus. First, did he ever kill a lion? Second, how many cows did he have?

Third, how many wives and children did he have?”

# 3: Rescue mission to Egypt: Nine-year-old Joey was asked by his mother what

he had learned in Sunday school. “Well, Mom,” he reported, “our teacher told us

how God sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the

Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he ordered his engineers to

build a pontoon bridge, and all the people walked across safely. He used his

walkie-talkie to radio headquarters to call in an air strike. They sent in bombers to

blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved.


“Now, Joey, is that REALLY what your teacher taught you?” his mother asked.

“Well, no, Mom,” Joey admitted, “but if I told it the way the teacher did, you’d

never believe it!”

#3: Religion is a good thing, as long as it’s in small doses. A family lived off the

alley behind my first church. There were three floors to their row house, each

floor inhabited by a different generation. The grandparents, who were members

of the church, lived on the ground floor. Next floor up was their son and daughter-

in-law, and the grandchildren’s bedrooms were at the top. One day, the

grandfather beckoned me to the back fence. “I’m worried about my grandson,” he

said. “What’s the problem?” I asked. He said, “When he gets up in the morning,

he reads the Bible before he does anything else. Every time he sits at the kitchen

table, he insists on saying grace. Now he’s talking about joining a prayer group

with his girlfriend.” Walter,” I said, “what’s the problem?” “Don’t get me wrong,

Reverend,” he said. “Religion is a good thing, as long as it’s in small doses. I’m

worried my grandson is becoming an extremist.” I admit it was hard to

sympathize with my neighbor. So far, no member of my family has been lost to

such radical behavior. Neither has a child of mine wandered off to the Temple for

three days. But it’s important to remember that religious commitments can divide

a family. [William G. Carter, Praying for a Whole New World, CSS Publishing

# 5: The hell broke loose: Mark Twain used to tell a joke that he put a dog and a

cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did.

So he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few

adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, a Presbyterian, and a Catholic, and hell

Additional anecdotes: 1) “You’re not a white man; you’re Jesus.”  A

touching story is told of a British missionary priest who lived   in a remote part of

Tanzania.  He lived alone, a single white man among his African flock, speaking

their language.  One day a British government official arrived on a tour of the

area. The Tanzanian children ran out to welcome the visitor. They entertained

the official by clapping, singing and dancing.  After the official left, the children

excitedly told the missionary priest, “We saw a white man! We saw a white

man!”   Some of the children said that the visitor was the first foreigner they had

ever seen. The priest was amazed and exclaimed, “But I’m a white man. I’m a

foreigner. But I’ve been living here with you all these years.”   One of the children

said, “You’re not a white man; you’re Jesus, you are our Father.”  Mission

Sunday reminds us that transparent Christian life, as lived by this missionary,

radiating the real presence of Jesus within, is the mission of every Christian.

(Joseph G. Healey, M.M).

2)  “Athanasius Evangelized Me With a Cup of Tea” : One day Bishop

Christopher Mwoleka came to our house in Nyabihanga Village in Rulenge,


Tanzania on an unexpected visit. My good friend Athanasius and I hurriedly

prepared tea for the villagers who came to greet the bishop. We started with two

full thermoses, but then several other visitors came and soon we had finished all

the tea. I wondered what I would do if another person came. Just then one of our

neighbors arrived to say hello. As I started to apologize for not having any more

tea, Athanasius spontaneously picked up his own cup of tea and politely handed

it to the visitor. It was a simple gesture of sharing, but for me a profound act of

love and beauty. By his example Athanasius had evangelized me. (Joseph G.

3) Americans give $700 million per year to mission agencies. However, they pay

as much for pet food every 52 days. A person must overeat by at least $1.50

worth of food per month to maintain one excess pound of flesh. Yet $1.50 per

month is more than what 90 percent of all Christians in America give to missions.

If the average missions’ supporter is only five pounds overweight, it means he

spends (to his own hurt) at least five times as much as he gives for missions. If

he were to choose simple food (as well as not overeat), he could give ten times

as much as he does to missions and not modify his standard of living in any other

way!  [Ralph Winter of the William Carey Library, 1705 North Sterra Bonita

Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91104, in Leadership, IV,4,p. 64. ]

 4) Mary Moffatt Livingstone:  Sometimes marriage to a great leader comes with

a special price for his wife. Such was the case for Mary Moffatt Livingstone, wife

of Dr. David Livingstone, perhaps the most celebrated missionary in the Western

world. Mary was born in Africa; she was the daughter of Robert Moffatt, the

missionary who inspired Livingstone to go to Africa. The Livingstones were

married in Africa in 1845, but the years that followed were difficult for Mary.

Finally, she and their six children returned to England so she could recuperate as

Livingstone plunged deeper into the African interior. Unfortunately, even in

England Mary lived in near poverty. The hardships and long separations took

their toll on Mrs. Livingstone, who died when she was just forty-two.