IT'S “MISSION SUNDAY” AGAIN!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
When I was a little boy, the time around Mission Sunday was always one of excitement: it meant selling Mission Sunday flags and stamps to almost anybody and everybody and it did not matter who: our neighbours in the building we lived (Christians, Hindus and Muslims), our friends in school, uncles and aunts who would visit us and even the shop-keepers in the vicinity!
As Mission Sunday approached, there was a Father who normally came to give us a talk on missions far away, showing us ordinary slides from a simple projector which was “hi-tech” - in those days; and invariably they also brought in some black and white photos over which we pushed and jostled the others, to have as much a look as possible. A dream “to go to the missions” was more exciting than a space odyssey!
On Mission Sunday eve, one was busy plastering the walls of the Church with Mission Sunday posters. Early on Mission Sunday morning, one was up as early as possible to go to the Church compound with the collection boxes literally begging “aunty please!” “uncle please!”; and the moment they dropped a coin or a note into our box, without as much as a decent “thank you” we would try to catch the others who were making their own effort to avoid these pesky boys who were hell-bent on making their pockets a bit lighter! And then came the final “next” day when some of us were called to the Parish house to open the boxes to count what was collected. You can imagine our pride when the collection that one had made for the missions, was high up there on the charts.
Yes, ultimately, Mission Sunday reminded us about “giving” – that we too have to give of our best to help in the missionary activity of the Church; to help those labouring far away in some distant village, in some remote island to bring the Joy of the Gospels to the people around. That is why as a little kid, I and several other boys and girls of my age gave of our very best because we were made to understand that we too had a role to play in this mighty endeavour.
St. Pope John Paul II reminds us that Mission Sunday is “an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world”.
The theme of this year’s World Mission Sunday (October 19th, 2014) is from the Gospel of St. Mathew “I will build my Church” (16:18): the emphasis is two-dimensional: the outreach of local Churches through the laity, religious and priests and the contribution that each one needs to make to ensure this.
Giving our mite is definitely an important dimension on Mission Sunday but we all need to do much more. It’s our ability and commitment to be witnesses of Jesus in the world of today. Pope Francis in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ puts it very poignantly: “today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility.....being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey” (# 127)
The challenge therefore, for all disciples of Jesus is to have the courage to live our missionary call in the here and now. Long ago as a little boy, this message came to me loud and clear!
18th October, 2014
(*Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad-380 052
Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax: (079) 27489018