On Pentecost, Pope Francis praised missionary work as a massive work of mercy based on the desire for everyone to be saved and loved.
The mission to the nations is “a great, immense work of mercy, both spiritual and material,” he said.
The Church’s missionary mandate means that the Church “cares for those who do not know the Gospel, because she wants everyone to be saved and to experience the Lord’s love.” Pope Francis said the Church must “announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel” and proclaim mercy in every part of the world to reach every person, young and old.
“Faith is God’s gift and not the result of proselytizing. Rather, it grows thanks to the faith and charity of evangelizers who witness to Christ,” he explained. “As they travel through the streets of the world, the disciples of Jesus need to have a love without limits, the same measure of love that our Lord has for all people. We proclaim the most beautiful and greatest gifts that he has given us: his life and his love.”
Pope Francis spoke about mission work in his message for World Missionary Day, celebrated Oct. 23. The message’s text was released on Pentecost Sunday, May 15.
“Mercy finds its most noble and complete expression in the Incarnate Word. Jesus reveals the face of the Father who is rich in mercy,” the pontiff said.
“When we welcome and follow Jesus by means of the Gospel and sacraments, we can, with the help of the Holy Spirit, become merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful; we can learn to love as he loves us and make of our lives a free gift, a sign of his goodness,” he continued.
According to Pope Francis, through God’s love the Church “discovers its mandate, lives it and makes it known to all peoples through a respectful dialogue with every culture and religious belief.”
He said everyone is invited to go out as missionary disciples who offer their talents, creativity, wisdom and experience. They go out “in order to bring the message of God’s tenderness and compassion to the entire human family.”
Mercy is a part of God’s greatness, he explained.
“When mercy encounters a person, it brings deep joy to the Father’s heart; for from the beginning the Father has lovingly turned towards the most vulnerable, because his greatness and power are revealed precisely in his capacity to identify with the young, the marginalized and the oppressed.”
In the face of his children’s weaknesses and infidelity, God’s heart is “overcome with compassion.”
Pope Francis invoked the Bible’s use of the word “mercy” when using the word for a mother’s womb. This word “refers to the love of a mother for her children, whom she will always love, in every circumstance and regardless of what happens, because they are the fruit of her womb,” he said.
He praised the growing presence of women in missionary work as “a significant sign of God’s maternal love.” He also praised the role of lay and religious women and many families who carry out their missionary vocation. They often better understand people’s problems and can deal with them in a fresh way.
He encouraged habits like focusing “on people rather than structures” and building good relations, harmony, peace, solidarity, dialogue, cooperation and fraternity.
The pontiff described the Virgin Mary as the model of missionaries and he prayed that she “foster and safeguard the living and mysterious presence of the Risen Lord in every place.”
Pope Francis said that evangelization in many places begins with the patient work of education. This helps bring forth a people who are able to evangelize and “take the Gospel to those places where it otherwise would not have been thought possible.”
The Pope suggested there is a right to be evangelized.
“All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person,” he said. “This is all the more necessary when we consider how many injustices, wars, and humanitarian crises still need resolution. Missionaries know from experience that the Gospel of forgiveness and mercy can bring joy and reconciliation, justice and peace.”
The Pope cited his apostolic exhortation “Evangelium Gaudium,” which said every Christian and every Christian community must discern how to “reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”
World Missionary Day was first approved in 1926 under Pope Pius XI. It was organized by the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
The Pope noted the day’s 90th anniversary and stressed the importance of parish, diocesan and religious community offerings. These offerings support Christian communities in need and support “the proclamation of the Gospel even to the ends of the earth.”
“Let us not close our hearts within our own particular concerns, but let us open them to all of humanity,” he said.