Rome (Italy). In Salesian tradition, the month of October is characterized by particular attention to the missions and in-depth missionary spirit in the various pastoral realities with children, teenagers, and young adults through initiatives aimed at raising awareness, knowledge, prayer, and support for missionary works and of the missionaries.
For World Mission Day, which is celebrated on 22 October 2023, Pope Francis has chosen the theme that takes inspiration from the story of the disciples of Emmaus, in the Gospel of Luke (Lk 24:13-35): Hearts on fire, feet on the move. Through the experience of these two disciples who, in the encounter with the risen Christ are transformed into active missionaries, the Holy Father recalls first of all the value of the Word of God for the life of the baptized:
“Knowledge of Scripture is important for the life of the Christian, and even more so for the proclamation of Christ and His Gospel. (…) Jesus is himself the living Word, who alone can make our hearts burn within us, as He enlightens and transforms them.”
In a second passage of his message the Pope underlines the importance of the Eucharist: Here it should be remembered that breaking our material bread with the hungry in the name of Christ is already a work of Christian mission. How much more so is the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, which is Christ himself, a work of mission par excellence, since the Eucharist is the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church.
In conclusion, with the image of the “feet setting out,” Pope Francis “reminds us once more of the perennial validity of the missio ad gentes, the mission entrusted to the Church by the risen Lord to evangelize all individuals and peoples, even to the ends of the earth.”
He therefore takes this opportunity to reiterate the commitment and duty of the proclamation because “everyone has the right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to announce it without excluding anyone, not as one who imposes a new obligation, but as one who shares a joy, signals a beautiful horizon, offers a desirable banquet. Missionary conversion remains the principal goal that we must set for ourselves as individuals and as a community, because “missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity”
The reference to the synodal journey of the Church cannot be missing, in which missionary action must be carried out in synergy at every level: “The urgency of the Church’s missionary activity naturally calls for an ever-closer missionary cooperation on the part of all her members and at every level. This is an essential goal of the synodal journey that the Church has undertaken, guided by the key words: communion, participation, mission.
The Church has already had a pastoral instrument for a century that makes it possible for all communities to participate in this task. They are the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) that in the 19th century received a new impetus with the specific aim of praying and acting concretely to support evangelization in the territory.
The PMS continue this service and above all urge us to pray for all the missionaries scattered around the world who evangelize first of all with prayer and presence among peoples, joyfully proclaiming the Good News of Christ.