Highways, byways and sinners: these are the missionary fields
By ELISE HARRIS
Vatican City, Oct 12, 2014 / 04:17 am (CNA/EWTN News) - In his thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of two Canadian saints Pope Francis said that a true missionary goes out of himself, boldly bringing God’s message of love to all without distinction.
“Missionaries are those who, in docility to the Holy Spirit, have the courage to live the Gospel…they have gone out to call everyone, in the highways and byways of the world,” the Pope said in his Oct. 12 homily.
The Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica was held in thanksgiving for the canonization of Canadian saints François of Laval and Marie of the Incarnation, who served as missionaries in Canada’s New France territory in the 1600s.
Saints François of Laval was the city’s first bishop, while Saint Marie of the Incarnation was an Ursuline nun who compiled catechisms and prayers in Aboriginal languages and worked for the unification of Aboriginal peoples and French settlers.
In his homily, Pope Francis drew attention to the day’s first reading taken from Isaiah, in which the prophet says that “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”
Full of hope in God, these are the words that direct us to our ultimate goal, the Roman Pontiff noted, and point us to the path where “the saints go before us and guide us. These words also describe the vocation of missionaries.”
True missionaries are those who have the courage to live what the Gospel teaches, the Pope explained, drawing attention to the day’s Gospel in which the king tells his servants to go out to the streets and bring “both good and bad” alike to his wedding feast, since the guests he initially invited did not come.
By going out to everyone, “(missionaries) have done immense good for the Church, for once the Church stops moving, once she becomes closed in on herself, she falls ill,” the Pope observed.
“She can be corrupted, whether by sins or by that false knowledge cut off from God which is worldly secularism.”
Missionaries are also people who have fixed their gaze on Christ, he said, and who have shared the grace they have received with others rather than keeping it for themselves.
As Saint Paul says in the day’s second reading from the book of Philippians, “(missionaries) have become all things to all people; they have been able to live in poverty and abundance, in plenty and hunger; they have been able to do all things in him who strengthens them.”
“With this God-given strength, (missionaries) have the courage to ‘go forth’ into the highways of the world with confidence in the Lord who has called them,” he said, noting how many often travel far away from their homes and families.
The Church’s task of evangelizing is essentially the proclamation of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness, the Pope continued. This has been revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
He noted how many missionaries have served the Church by “breaking the bread of God’s word for the poor and those far off, and by bringing to all the gift of the unfathomable love welling up from the heart of the Savior.” He said that this was the case for both Saints François of Laval and Marie of the Incarnation.
The Bishop of Rome then directed the attention of the various Canadian bishops, priests and pilgrims present to the Book of Hebrews, which provides good advice for both current missionaries, and their local communities.
First of all, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith,” he said, because the memory of the missionaries sustains us during this time when there are too few laborers at the service of the Gospel.
Next, the pontiff encouraged them to “Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings...Do not therefore abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance.”
"The Church of Quebec is prolific! Prolific of many missionaries, who went everywhere," the Roman Pontiff observed in his off-the-cuff remarks.
He urged Canadians not to "abandon forthrightness" with this memory of previous missionaries. "Do not abandon courage! Perhaps… no, not perhaps. It is true. The devil is envious and does not tolerate a land that is so prolific in missionaries."
"Our prayer to the Lord is that Quebec returns to this path of fruitfulness, to giving the world many missionaries," the Pope prayed, asking that the two saints being commemorated become fervent intercessors.
In honoring those who suffered in order to bring us the Gospel, we make ourselves ready to live the challenges of our faith with humility, meekness and mercy in our everyday lives, he explained.
Pope Francis concluded his reflections by commissioning those present from Canada to live the joys and challenges of their own pilgrimage by commemorating the examples given by the witnesses and missionaries in their country.
May the seed which these saints planted "grow and give fruit of new men and women with courage, with foresight, with a heart open to the call of the Lord. Today we must ask this for your homeland!" he prayed.
From heaven may these saints intercede for us, and "make Quebec to be that source of brave and holy missionaries."