16 September 2009

Archbishop Nicols On Mission

On Sunday there was the annual Missions appeal, at which a nun told us that missionaries were not in Africa to convert people. Luckily, the Archbishop seems to have more robust ideas: read through to the end.

"St Paul, in his reflection on the outreach of faith to the Jewish community of his day, reminds us of the need for people who will speak of Jesus, who will act as missionaries. He asks ‘And how will there be preachers if they are not sent?’ This ‘missio’, this ‘sending’ is central to the dynamic of the Gospel. It is a dynamic in which we all share, for at the end of every Mass there is indeed a ‘missio’. We are sent out to fulfil our share in the mission given to us by the Lord.

St Matthew gives us the words and actions of the Risen Christ in ‘sending out’ his disciples and commissioning them to proclaim the Gospel and to baptise. It is, indeed, a co-missioning because Christ also gives us his unfailing and consoling promise to be with us always. Yes, the mission we receive is one and the same as the mission of Christ himself. He was sent by the Father ‘that we might have life and have it to the full’ (cf. John 10.10). And this mission of the Son exists from and in all eternity. Here is its deepest meaning on which we must reflect today.

The Father ceaselessly ‘sends out’ the Eternal Word, that expression of the very mystery of God, and does so in the utter, self-emptying love which is also the nature of the Godhead, the love which is the Holy Spirit. This giving out and receiving in of love, which is the very life of the Holy Trinity, is the first and unequivocal meaning of the word ‘missio’. God, of his infinite nature, is ‘missio’ and, of course, ‘communio’. These are the foundations of our use of this word, its most profound truth for us to keep in mind always.

The first outward expression or fruit of this inner ‘missio’ of the Godhead is, of course, the work of creation. St John tells us that all creation, every being, has its existence through the eternally spoken Word of God.

And so that this creation might indeed find its integral and full development or salvation, that Word become flesh in a particular and historical Incarnation. This ‘missio’ of the Eternal Word into our flesh and history gives all the defining characteristics of our sharing in that mission, in our work of ‘missio’ today. It is the full revelation of ‘integral human development’ and establishes for ever the need for the Gospel to be present as an essential part of human progress. Only in the Gospel is the full truth of our humanity told; only in the Gospel, which is Christ, does our humanity come to its true source and fulfilment, the mystery of God and God’s unequivocal love."

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