October is World Mission Month and this year Pope Francis has called for an ‘Extraordinary Mission Month’ and invites us to ‘do something extraordinary’. Over the years we have probably thought of supporting the missions through giving generously and supporting our missionaries in faraway lands – both very important.
However, the Church’s understanding has developed significantly in the last 50 or 60 years, especially in the lead up to, and the years following, the Second Vatican Council. This expansion in our thinking continues in the 6 themes proposed for our reflection prior to the Plenary Council 2020, particularly: ‘How is God calling us to be a Christ-centred Church that is Missionary and Evangelizing?’ The following reflections may help our understanding of the centrality of ‘mission’:
- ·Our Identity as ‘Church’ – Being ‘church’ has many faces, the most familiar perhaps being the local church or parish community, but there are other dimensions such as the universal church in the global world, the particular church or diocese, the domestic church or church in the family, and communities of faith who profess Jesus as Lord, the other Christian denominations.
- ·Models of Church – There are many models but no single ‘model’ sums up the full essence of what it means to be church – Communion of Disciples, People of God, Pilgrim Church, Body of Christ, to name a few. A working definition might be this: ‘The Church is the People, gathered together by the Spirit, in faith in the Risen Christ, in order to witness to, serve and preach the Reign of God. The Church believes this Reign of God has been inaugurated by and in Jesus who came in human form to teach and heal, ministry the Church continues and celebrates in Word and Sacrament.’ - rather wordy, I agree, but I suggest we take a word or phrase that appeals and reflect on this - in ‘bite-size’ pieces, so to speak.
- ·Eucharistic Assembly – Our gathering for Eucharist as the Assembly is a primary expression of our identity as the Body of Christ, our call to be his Real Presence in the world. Celebrating Eucharist is a ‘missionary act’ and our sending-forth is a key moment. One could even argue that the most truthful dismissal at the end of Mass might be: ‘The Mass is never ended. Go in peace!’
- ·Church as missionary by its very nature – Each of us is called to work with God in the completion of the creation of the world, ‘co-creators’ and partners with him. We move beyond human politics, allowing our lives to be influenced by our faith.
‘Baptised and Sent’ – This is both our identity and our call and we will reflect further on our missionary awareness in coming weeks.