The Message of Pope Francis for ‘World Mission Day 2018’ is addressed to the youth, in a major way. It is characteristically titled ‘Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all.’ He speaks to the young people in a direct language and along with them and through them speaks to the entire Catholic Christian community. His message spills over Catholic and Christian boundaries and addresses the entire human society, too. Certainly, the focus of the message is young people, but the spirit of the message is ‘youthfulness’ in faith and mission and the application of the message is Catholic, Christian and all human communities across the world, in a progressive manner.

His message, obviously, has two core purposes – one, ‘motivating young people towards a mission in life’ and two, ‘making the entire Christian community youthful through young people.’ The ‘bonus effect’ of the twin-purpose is that ‘Christian faith remains ever young.’

More often than not, mission is understood to be a certain task performed, of course within life, but other than life proper. Pope Francis has a brilliant definition of mission. He states ‘life is a mission.’ In other words, rather than ‘I have a mission in life,’ it is ‘I am a mission on this earth,’ so profound an insight! Quoting Evangelii Gaudium, 273, he asserts ‘that is the reason why I am here in this world.’ In yet other words, ‘every man and woman is a mission.’ One has to incarnate oneself in life as a mission. The source and direction of this mission is not just ‘being sent by someone and to someone’ respectively, but also ‘being attracted to and by someone,’ considering the way in which one is a mission.

‘Missio Ad Gentes’ is ‘mission to the nations or people.’ This is the mission God the Father carried out in the act of creation. This is the mission Jesus Christ was endowed with in the mystery of incarnation as the Son of God. This is the mission Jesus Christ performed during His life on earth as the Messiah. This is the mission the Christian community is mandated to continue in life. Definitely, this is the mission every disciple of Jesus or every Christian is supposed to shoulder in his or her life. In sum, ‘mission to the people’ is grounded in and emerges from the person of Jesus Christ. In addition, this is the same mission the Second World Catholic Council of Vatican revised and rejuvenated in the 60s of the 20th century, by incorporating an ‘interactive, reciprocal and complementary dynamics’ to the style of living one’s Christian mission, in a historic way so.

‘Mission to the people’ is the mission of ‘sharing the good news’ that is Jesus Christ. It is not just announcing the good news. It would mean ‘becoming good news’ and ‘living it’ oneself and then ‘sharing it’ with others, to be more precise, ‘loving everyone, even enemies’ as Jesus did (Jn 13:30, Mt 5:42). In other words, ‘becoming good news’ signifies ‘becoming like Jesus.’ Since the ‘peoples, nations or others’ are ideas or ideals and are abstract, ambiguous and anonymous, the ‘sharing of good news’ runs the risk of being casual and ineffective. In the concrete sense, ‘good news’ can be shared only one-to-one or ‘person-to-person,’ especially when it is the question of ‘being or becoming’ good news, that too, by way of ‘loving and serving’ others. ‘Mission to the peoples,’ at heart, is a ‘mission to the other person,’ who is just an extension of one’s own being. Further, ‘mission to the other person’ would imply ‘instilling a sense of faith’ and a ‘sense of mission in life’ in the other. It would signify creating or enhancing in the other person ‘an interest, an enthusiasm, a commitment in life,’ which will pave his or her way for pursuing the ‘fullness of life’ and attaining a ‘sense of fulfillment’ in life.

‘Mission to the other,’ as a one-sided initiative, has to be advanced and enhanced to the point of being responded by ‘mission between or among peoples,’ which is technically worded as ‘Missio Inter Gentes,’ which is the genius of the Second Council of Vatican. Being a mission to the other person has to be responded by the other person, by ‘accepting the initiative’ and by a fresh ‘mission from the other person’ in return. ‘Inter-personal way of becoming a mission’ is a mutually enriching and complementary way of performing the Christian mission, yes, a mission par excellence. The ‘reciprocal and progressive process of becoming a mission to one another’ is the dynamics of mission, in the advanced and complete sense of the word. ‘Mission between or among peoples’ includes the mission between individuals, families, institutions, communities, nations and groups of all affiliations of faiths, ideologies and cultures in the world, as the dynamics of ‘sharing,’ well, the supreme paradigm of a divinely inspired human life.

Fr Dr MD Thomas
Founder Director, Institute of Harmony and
Peace Studies, New Delhi