I’ve never been here before, and I feel blessed for this chance to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The soil here is holy and rich in history. Not only the history of peoples and tribes, kingdoms and empires. But also the history of God — the history of his loving plan of salvation.
It’s amazing for me to reflect — that in these hills and plains, God spoke and revealed himself in blazing fire and peals of thunder. Under this sky, Jesus walked these roads, healing the blind and curing the sick, and speaking words of mercy and forgiveness.
And here in this place, the Church was born in the mission that Jesus gave her to continue his work: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”
This is good for us to remember as the Church prepares to renew her missionary commitment on World Mission Day.
This Sunday we give thanks for the men and women — priests, religious and lay people — who respond generously to God’s call by leaving family and friends to go off to proclaim Christ in foreign lands and cultures. We pray that many more will join them in serving the Church’s mission of evangelization.
But this Sunday we also remember that Jesus entrusted this evangelizing mission to every one of us.
Pope Francis said recently: “Every baptized person is a ‘cristoforo,’ a bearer of Christ, as the ancient holy Fathers said. Whoever has encountered Christ, as the Samaritan woman at the well, cannot keep this experience to himself or herself, but has the desire to share it, to bring Jesus to others.”
This was the main theme of my first pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith” which I published a year ago this week.
During this Year of Faith, I have been hoping to focus our attention to this essential dimension of our Catholic identity — our missionary vocation to proclaim the Gospel and invite others to join us on the path of following Jesus Christ.
Our faith in Jesus is a gift that is meant to be shared. As I wrote in my letter:
“The faith we have received, we are called to pass on to others. The love of God we know, we are called to share with others. This is the most basic identity and responsibility of every Catholic. … Our world will return to God — but not by way of words and programs, no matter how eloquent or well-conceived. Our world will return to God only by way of witnesses — by way of men and women who testify by the example of their lives that Jesus Christ is real and that his Gospel is the path to true happiness.”
These concluding weeks are a chance for all of us to reflect on our missionary commitment and witness. Are we living what we say we believe? We have to ask ourselves: Can the people we live with, and the people we meet each day, find the path to God through us? Can they tell we are Christians by the joy in our hearts and the way we act?
Evangelization always begins in the believer’s heart — in your heart and mine. And the lives we lead will always be the most credible testimony we can offer to the truth of the Gospel.
Evangelization has its own “language” — and this language is spoken more by actions and attitudes than by words.
By the witness of our lives we can make the Gospel “incarnate” — alive and visible. By our love and compassion, we can light the way for others to find God’s mercy and reconciliation. Through our missionary outreach to others — even those who have fallen far from God — we can awaken in their hearts the hope for a new life.
In this special time of nearness to God in the Holy Land, I am praying for each of you. Please pray for me! And this week, let’s pray for all of us to have a stronger faith — to witness to God’s mercy and to share it through our words of understanding and our works of love.
And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to bring our brothers and sisters to the new encounter with Jesus Christ, who alone can make our lives beautiful and complete.