Pope Benedict XVI released today a message in preparation for the upcoming 80th World Mission Day which will be celebrated on October 22nd this year. Benedict shared through his theme, "Charity, Soul of the Mission," his insistence that all missionary activity is animated by first entering into a communion of love with God.
"Each Christian community is called,” the Pope began, “to communicate God Who is Love.” Though sin entered the world, the Holy Father continued, through Christ, “the Good Shepherd who does not abandon the lost sheep, men and women of all times are given the possibility of entering into communion with God.”
“The amazing sign of this love,” Benedict said, “is the Cross."
The mission of the Church, Pope Benedict indicated, begins with the idea that "in order to love according to God, it is necessary to live in Him and of Him. God is man's first 'home' and only those who live in Him burn with a fire of divine charity capable of 'setting alight' the world.”
“It is not, then, difficult to understand,” the Holy Father continued, “that true missionary solicitude - the principal commitment of the ecclesial community - is linked to faithfulness to divine love, and this is true for each individual Christian, for each local community, for the particular Churches and for the entire People of God.”
Turning more directly to missionary activities, the Holy Father said, "Awareness of this shared mission, is what animates the generous willingness of Christ's disciples to undertake works of human and spiritual promotion that bear witness, as the beloved John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical 'Redemptoris mission,' to 'the soul of all missionary activity: love'."
“That mission which is not directed from love, which does not spring forth from a profound act of divine love,” Benedict said, “risks being reduced to a merely philanthropic and social activity.”
The Holy Father emphasized the fact that "to be missionaries means to love God with all one's being, to the point of giving, if necessary, one's life for Him. How many priests, religious and lay people, even in our own time, have rendered the supreme witness of love through martyrdom!"
He added: "To be missionaries is to attend, like the Good Samaritan, to everyone's needs, especially those of the poorest and most needy, because those who love with Christ's heart do not seek their own interest, but only the glory of the Father and the good of others. This is the secret of the apostolic fruitfulness of missionary work, which cuts across frontiers and cultures, reaches people and spreads even to the confines of the world."
The Pope concluded his Message by asking that World Mission Day "be an occasion to better understand that the witness of love, the soul of the mission, concerns everyone. ... Alongside those who are on the front line ... of evangelization - and here my thoughts go out to missionaries - there are many others, children, young people and adults, who with prayer and cooperation contribute in various ways to spreading the Kingdom of God on earth. The hope is that, with everyone's contribution, this shared participation may grow ever more."