Last Sunday we welcomed Msgr. Joe Hirsch to our parishes to speak about Casa Hogar as part of the annual diocesan mission co-op. This Sunday is designated as "World Mission Sunday." Both St. Peter’s and St. Charles have a wonderful history of generosity in terms of the missions. In advance, I want to thank you for your continued generous support of the Church’s missionary efforts.
While supporting the missions in far-away places is good, we need to remember that mission begins right at home. It’s been said that if you are baptized, you are a missionary. In fact Pope Francis often refers to us all as "missionary disciples" – we are called to follow Jesus (discipleship) and to share our faith with others (mission). Often we share our faith through humble acts of service, caring for one another, for the sick and the poor. But we are also called to witness to our faith in Christ; to tell others the difference Jesus makes in our lives.
Yet sometimes we tend to keep our faith in the background. I remember being told as a young person that the two things you never discuss in polite society are politics and religion. And while it’s true that sometimes religion can be used as a wedge to divide people – or a hammer to crush them – the religion of Jesus is about uniting people and lifting them up. That's something that certainly needs to be shared – not hidden away or kept secret.
It's something we saw Pope Francis doing during his recent visit to our nation. He met with people of all political and religious persuasions. He asked those with no faith to wish him well. We saw how Catholic Christianity can be a force for bringing people together and seeking to raise us up above the usual fray of political diatribes and polarization that afflicts our culture. I heard one news commentator remark that Pope Francis did what none of the current presidential candidates seem able to do – unite people across a broad spectrum of opinions and beliefs. And he did it in very humble, gentle, unassuming ways.
As I've mentioned in my homilies, this Holy Father not only preaches Jesus, he shows us what it means to follow Jesus. He is modeling for us what it means to be a "missionary disciple." I’m sure the pope would be the first to say he is only doing what every baptized Christian is supposed to do. As the excitement of his visit recedes into the background, the real test of his example is up to you and me. Will we be "missionary disciples" who through service and witness help to heal the wounds of sin and division in our communities? Humbly and gently, will we share the hope and joy that is ours in Christ?