The Church’s mission, Pope Francis has declared, is to announce the good news of Jesus Christ to “all men and women of good will,” since He alone is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
In his message for World Mission Day released Sunday, Francis said that Jesus Christ was “the very first and greatest evangelizer”—a word that literally means one who announces good news. “The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
The idea of mission, the Pope said, is not some add-on to the life of the Church but stands “at the heart of the Christian faith.”
According to the Gospel, in fact, the last command that Jesus left his followers was that of mission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
“The Church is missionary by nature,” the Pope said in his Message. Otherwise, “she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away.”
The pontiff also endeavored to distinguish the message of Jesus from what he called “religious ideology.”
The Church’s mission, Francis declared, “is not to spread a religious ideology, much less to propose a lofty ethical teaching,” a task undertaken by plenty of other “movements throughout the world.” Through the mission of the Church, “Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act” and is present through the evangelizing action of the Church, he said.
Citing his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, Francis said that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea,” but rather of an encounter with “a Person,” which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
The Church’s mission also reminds Christians that earth is not their true homeland, but that they are “exiles journeying towards our final home,” which is the Kingdom of Heaven, he said.
The Pope recalled that since mission is at the heart of the gospel, it is a task shared by all, and is not limited just to a few people.
Missionary work is not just the task of those who have given up everything to follow Jesus in the missions, Francis said, but rather the Church is called “to develop a missionary heart in everyone,” since all share in a common baptism.
His words echoed those of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which declares that “the whole Church is apostolic” and is sent out by Jesus into the whole world.
“All members of the Church share in this mission,” the Catechism states, and all are called to the apostolate, comprising every activity that aims “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.”
The Pope released his Message on the Christian feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, a celebration that recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the birth of the Church.
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