Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Homily for Mission Sunday

Homily for Mission Sunday
29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Oct. 16, 2016
2 Tim 3: 14—4: 2
Boy Scouts Troop 9

In most of the U.S., apparently, World Mission Sunday is to be observed on Oct. 23. Not having received that information, I relied upon the Ordo, which identifies Oct. 16 as Mission Sunday, and planned the liturgy accordingly.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead …:  proclaim the word” (2 Tim 4: 1).

Those words of St. Paul are addressed to his disciple St. Timothy, whom St. Paul put in charge of the Church at Ephesus.  But once this reading is put into the sacred liturgy, they’re addressed to us as well.  They make a nice connection to World Mission Sunday.

Every year the Church observes this Sunday on which we’re invited to pray for the spread of the Gospel—what Paul today calls “wisdom for salvation thru faith in Christ Jesus” (3:15).  And a special collection is taken up for the support of the Church and missionaries in foreign lands where the Church is very young or almost entirely unknown and can’t support itself.  (Good news:  no collection here!)  E.g., I just read an article about the Church in Mongolia, where there have been Christians for just 25 years, following the fall of Communism around 1990.  There are about 1,200 Catholics among 3,000,000 people.  (We have 3 Salesian houses there doing missionary work in parishes and a vocational-technical school.)

Jesus was the 1st missionary, sent by his Father to bring the Good News of the Father’s love and the forgiveness of our sins.  Then Jesus sent the apostles; mission means “sent.”  The apostles brought the Gospel all over the Roman Empire, from Syria and Palestine to Spain, and St. Thomas even went to India, where to this day in the state of Kerala there are Catholics who trace their faith back to him.  Ever since then, heroic men and women have left their homes to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to foreign lands, to people who haven’t heard of him and of God’s love for us and the forgiveness of our sins.

We think of St. Patrick, who converted the Irish, and St. Francis Xavier, who went to India in the 1540s—a voyage that took at least 6 months and meant he’d never return to Spain—and from India a few years later he went on to Japan, where the descendants of the men and women he converted at Nagasaki preserved the Gospel from 1597 to 1853 amid horrible persecutions and without the assistance of priests because any foreign missionaries were quickly caught and martyred.

Do you know that in the U.S. Capitol, where every state is allowed to erect 2 statues of its great men and women, there are 4 priests?  All were missionaries:  Fr. Jacques Marquette for Wisconsin, Fr. Eusebio Kino for Arizona, St. Junipero Serra for California—he’s considered the founder of California—and St. Damien of Molokai, the priest of the lepers of Hawaii.

Next week we’ll celebrate the feast of the North American martyrs, 8 Jesuit priests and lay helpers who were killed by the Iroquois in what is now New York State and Ontario between 1642 and 1649.  For an idea of what the missionaries in Canada had to go thru in that time, see the movie Blackrobe.  Many of the missionaries risked their lives and some died in the rivers or winter snows; these 8 were canonized because they were martyred in their wilderness missions after awful tortures:  beaten, tomahawked, scalded, their fingers cut off with clam shells, burned, etc.

Not all missionaries are killed, of course.  Mother Teresa went to India from Albania in 1929; she was a schoolteacher until God inspired her to start a brand-new, very different work in the slums of Calcutta, where she brought the love of Jesus to the very least people in society, as you know.

Much closer to home, we have St. Rose Philippine Duchesne.  She left France in 1818 with some other sisters to found a school in St. Louis—the 1st free school west of the Mississippi.  Later she went out to the Indians in western Missouri and Kansas.  She couldn’t learn their language, but she could still show them by signs and affection that God loved them, and she could pray for them.  In fact, the Indians called her “the woman who always prays.”  Her tomb is in St. Charles, near St. Louis.

In the 1880s, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini came with a few sisters to work among the Italian immigrants in New York, and eventually she founded schools, orphanages, and hospitals also in Chicago, Seattle, and elsewhere, including South America.  Although she was terrified of travel by ship—the only way to cross the ocean at that time—she crossed the ocean numerous times because it was necessary for the support of her sisters and her works among the immigrants and orphans.  She became a U.S. citizen in 1909 and died in Chicago in 1917.  In 1946 she became the 1st U.S. citizen made a saint.

We heard St. Paul’s command to Timothy to “proclaim the word.”  The Church puts that command into our ears too, not only into the ears of priests and nuns and brothers.  You who are very young can pray, and should pray, for missionaries and for the people where they minister.  You who are older, besides praying, can contribute financially to mission collections like the one that was taken up at Holy Cross in June or directly to various missionary organizations.

The youngsters can also think about what they might do as a year-long service in a few years, when they’re out of college.  Various religious orders, including the Jesuits and the Salesians, have wonderful volunteer programs for temporary mission service.  E.g., the Salesians send volunteers—most of them 22, 23, 24 years old—to places like Bolivia, Cambodia, and Vietnam; until last year, when civil war broke out, we were sending them to South Sudan.  Here’s a sample of what that experience is like, from a young woman from Cape Girardeau, Mo., who was serving as a nurse in Maridi, South Sudan, 2 years ago (when the country was still at peace): http://heartsspeaktohearts.blogspot.com/2014_05_01_archive.html (read and show photos).

So—all of us are called to spread the Gospel, to “proclaim the word,” even now by the way we show Jesus’ love to the people around us; and maybe later by becoming a missionary volunteer for a period of service.

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