Today is World Mission Sunday. The Church invites us to reflect on our personal response to Christ’s mission. It is a special day to revitalize our faith, and to rededicate ourselves to Christ’s mission. It is also, a day to show special solidarity to all true missionaries who have responded to Christ mandate: “Go, make disciples of all nations.”
Today, the Holy Father, Pope Francis reminds us that: “Every man and woman is a mission. That is the reason for our life on this earth … Each one of us is called to reflect on this fact: ‘I am a mission on this earth. That is the reason why I am here in this world’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 273).”
To young people Pope Francis adds: “You too, young friends, by your baptism you have become living members of the Church. Together, we have received the mission to bring the Gospel to everyone … To share in the mission to the ends of the earth demands the gift of oneself … I dare to say that, for a young man or woman who wants to follow Christ, what is most essential is to seek, to discover and to persevere in his or her vocation.”
Today’s Scripture Readings describe leadership as the sacrificial service done for others and offers Jesus as the best example. They also explain the servant leadership of Jesus, pinpointing service and sacrifice as the criteria of greatness in Christ’s Kingdom.
The first Reading is a Messianic prophecy taken from the Fourth Servant Song in the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The Servant of the first Reading intercedes with God for the people, taking upon himself their wrongdoings and accepting the punishment their sins have incurred. This passage speaks of the servant as giving “his life as an offering for sin.” The prophecy was realized in Jesus who lived and died for others. Out of love, Jesus, the servant, lived and died so that the unjust might know God’s justification. The first Reading about the “Suffering Servant” prepares us to hear today’s Gospel teaching on ambition versus humility.
The second Reading, taken from the letter to the Hebrews, tells us that, as God-man and Mediator-High Priest, Jesus has offered a fitting sacrifice to God to ransom us, liberating us from enslavement to sin. In the time of Jesus, ransom was the price paid to free someone from slavery. Sometimes the “ransomer” offered himself as a substitute for the slave, as Jesus did. The Reading also speaks of a High Priest who is able to sympathize with us in our weakness because Jesus has been tested in every way though sinless, and so we can “confidently” hope for God’s mercy.
Today’s Gospel explains how Jesus has accomplished the Messianic mission of saving mankind from the slavery of sin by becoming the “Suffering Servant.” In the context of the selfish request made by James and John for key positions in the Messianic political kingdom Jesus would establish after overthrowing the Roman rule, Jesus challenged his followers to become great by serving others with sacrificial agape love: “Whoever wishes to be great must be a servant.” Jesus commands us to give ourselves to others in loving and humble service, and so to liberate them, just as we were freed by Jesus’ death.
Jesus teaches us in today’s Gospel that true happiness comes from surrendering ourselves completely in humble service to God through Christ. And all we need is a servant’s heart, mind, eyes, and touch. So, “How’s your Service?”
The Church challenges us to give our lives in loving service to others, for to become an authentic disciple of Jesus means to put ourselves in the humble, demanding role of servant to others, to seek intentionally the happiness and fulfillment of those we love regardless of the cost to ourselves. The best place to begin the process of “self-giving” service is in our own homes and in the workplace. In our Parishes we are also called to serve not to be served. We can here apply the famous “ask not” of John Kennedy: “Ask not what your parish, what your Church, your God can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your parish, for your Church and for your God!”
So, through service and sacrifice, we shall find and attain our own salvation. By liberating others, we shall liberate ourselves. By giving peace to others, we shall find our own peace. And, by identifying with others, Christ, shall identify with us.
Mission is service and sacrifice rendered in love for the salvation of all nations. This love comes with patience and docility to the will of God. It begins by transforming the missionary into a great instrument for the salvation of others. So, today, Christ teaches us that to be great is to be ready to serve and to make sacrifices for others.
As we celebrate Mission Sunday, the voice of salvation continues to call us to be more faithful to God’s mission both in us and in others. It reminds us of the great challenges before us today in God’s mission. This includes our changing cultures, societies and lifestyle which must be urgently evangelized and redeemed.
The Good News is that we can overcome these challenges through the spirit of sacrifice, integrity of living, humility and love. So, in the midst of all these challenges, we must find consolation in these words from the letter to the Hebrews: “Let us be confident, then, in approaching the throne of grace, that we shall find mercy and grace when we are in need of help.”
Fr. Jude CSSp