Today’s Gospel tells us about the first mission on which Jesus sent the Twelve. With this mission they began to become “apostles”–from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstolos) meaning, “one who is sent.” This was just the beginning of what would become the “Great Commission” in Mark 16:15: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Then we hear that, after Jesus ascended into heaven, “they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” (Mark 16:20)
What began with the event narrated in today’s Gospel was to become essential to the Church: the Church is missionary by nature. The teaching on the missionary nature of the Church is summarized in numbers 849-856 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. There it is described as a requirement of the Church’s catholicity, because the Church is “the universal sacrament of salvation.” (n. 849) The Church’s missionary mandate comes from the Lord and is grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: “The Church on earth is by her very nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (n. 850, quoting Vatican II’s Decree Ad Gentes on the Missionary Activity of the Church, n. 2) “Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.” (n. 851)
Our diocese has a strong missionary tradition. We have the diocesan mission of Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II in Peru founded by the Servant of God Father Joseph Walijewski and directed by priests of our diocese, currently Monsignor Joseph Hirsch. Another priest of our diocese from Saint Mary’s Ridge in Monroe County is Bishop Robert Flock, Bishop of the Diocese of San Ignacio de Velasco in Bolivia. We have given men and women religious to Maryknoll and other missionary societies. I have known women religious from the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and the Sisters of Saint Benedict who have served in mission lands. Besides a number of lay mission trips, the faithful of our diocese generously support the Mission Sunday collection and the Mission Coop program, which we did in May when Father Valentine Joseph Gasparraj was here. We are also the beneficiaries of the Church’s mission spirit in the international priests serving in our diocese.
This week both Father Hokamp and I will be away. I will be continuing my annual vacation at the home farm. Father Hokamp will be attending the Bosco Conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. Deo volente, we will both be back with you next weekend!
St. Peter’s Shin-Dig is next Sunday, July 18, beginning with Mass at 10:00 AM. (Note the special Mass time!) A lot of planning and work goes into this event, so come and enjoy the fruit of so much generous labor. The parish-festival season has begun.
Pray the Rosary this week for all the priests serving in our diocese and for missionaries serving abroad. Pray for our seminarians and for all young men and women discerning their vocation in the Church, that they may respond to God’s will as generously and faithfully as possible. Pray for people in our country who are suffering devastation due to wildfires or floods, and the building collapse in Florida; and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.