Sunday 23 October 2016 - Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The publican returned to his home justified; the pharisee did not
WORLD MISSION DAY & UNITED NATIONS DAY
For Catholics seventy years ago Missions evoked images of white robed Australian priests and sisters being sent to third world continents to preach the faith, convert the natives and to build parishes. It was understood that they would never return. For school children there were little brightly coloured collection boxes in which to put money for the missions and images of missionaries with smiling natives. Missionaries gave, and the people to whom they were sent received. We saw no positive images of the local religious beliefs and practices.
Today the image of Catholic overseas missions is more varied. It represents the exchange of people and resources between churches in different nations to help meet one another’s needs. Missionaries usually go abroad for a short time to help build up the church there. Many priests, for example come to Australia from Nigeria, Vietnam, the Philippines – once seen as mission countries. They may work here for five years or so in pastoral ministry. Australian Catholics also spend time abroad providing technical skills, training spiritual directors or teaching theology in overseas seminaries. They take a keen interest in the religious beliefs of the people they work among.
Of course some people serve for their whole lives in churches overseas. Many live in dangerous places, as the list of lay people, sisters, brothers and priests killed when serving their people testifies. They link us to the long line of those who have suffered for Christ and so to our brothers and sisters around the world. Pope Francis, too, has made it clear that we are all missionaries in our daily lives. The heart of Christian faith is to go out from the comfort of our own church to people who are on the edge of the church and to bring the welcome and the joy of the Gospel. They bring people together.
That mission lies at the heart of Jesuit Social Services. The desire to accompany and serve vulnerable young people draws together people from different faiths and philosophies but with the same heart and conviction that each person matters. That is why United Nations Day also matters. Like the Catholic Church, the United Nations is born out of a stubborn hope that people who are different from one another, even hostile to one another, can be reconciled and can work together for peace and a shared prosperity. That hope often becomes obscure in the life of the United Nations, just as it does in the messy reality of the Catholic Church. But we should celebrate it as we do every initiative that works for peace in the midst of conflict, harmony in the midst of difference, and lives out of a vision of a shared humanity.
Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ