Each year Pope Francis chooses a theme to inspire all Catholics on World Mission Sunday who contribute to God’s mission by listening to the Word of God, discerning the needs of the times and responding with generosity and creativity.
This year’s theme for World Mission Sunday is, ‘Hearts on fire, feet on the move,’ and is based on the Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35. At the end of the day, the disciples who had unknowingly been accompanied by Jesus on their journey to the village, came to a place of quiet attention. As they sat around the table their eyes were opened in recognition of Jesus upon hearing His word and at the breaking of the bread, and their hearts burned within them (cf Lk 31-33.) Whilst at first dismayed and grief-stricken at the death of Jesus and downcast by a loss of hope, their encounter with Christ was transformational and set them on the path to share their experience, proclaim the resurrection and await the coming of the Holy Spirit to further Gods mission. Pope Francis says, “so let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope! (Evangelii Gaudium, 86).”
Pope Francis draws on three images, “their hearts burned within them, their eyes were opened and their feet set out on the way,” to show how the cultivation of communion with Christ is the practice of being mystics in action. In John’s gospel, Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit (Jn 15: 5.) In faith we are guided to experience this unity in the depths of our own hearts and the unique circumstances of our lives.
Columban missionaries around the world cross boundaries of culture and religion to live and share the Gospel of Jesus and are inspired by the patronage of St Columban who said, “a life unlike your own can be your teacher.” Fr Noel Connolly in his ‘Reflections on Mission,’ tells of a Taoist holy man who when asked by a Sister from Hong Kong what he thought of Christianity replied, “you Christians know too much about God.” In hearing this, Fr Noel reflected on the tendency for too much rationality, information and talk in western societies, and even the concentration on teaching in Christian liturgies. Rather the need for more silence and coming to know the mystery of Christ in the heart to enliven hope and keep us loving.
In our times there are ever more frailties, poverties and wounds all around the world that draw response. Remembering that sharing material support in God’s name with peoples in need is also a work of mission.
Pope Francis concludes his message for World Mission Sunday in prayer,
“Our Lady of the Way, Mother of Christ’s missionary disciples and Queen of Missions, pray for us!”
Attachment: Pope Francis message for World Mission Sunday 2023
Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM
Peace, Ecology and Justice Office
Columban Mission Centre, Essendon