St John Paul II and Missionary Activity

On this 22nd Sunday of October, as we are celebrating the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, as well as World Mission Sunday. Celebrated on the second to last Sunday of October this special day is dedicated to the support of the missionary work carried by the Church, through prayer as well as sacrifices. This year’s celebration also falls on the memorial of a great missionary Pope, St John Paul II.

Pope John Paul truly had a heart on fire for Jesus and his feet on the move to go everywhere to proclaim God’s love for humanity. Suffice to mention how he went around the globe, totally filled with that powerful missionary spirit, and embarked on some 104 apostolic journeys to 129 different countries. St John Paul II was an ardent faithful interpreter of that famous verse taken from the Acts of the Apostles: I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 13:47). Within his heart he deeply felt that it was his calling to go the farthest places of the earth proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom to draw men and women to the heart of Christ.

When speaking about the missionary activity St John Pope II liked to emphasize the New Evangelization. Obviously the Church has to go outside of herself to evangelize other nations. His famous encyclical on the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, issued on December 7, 1990, speaks on this urgent need to conduct mission ad gentes. In number 2 of this document Pope John Paul II says: For in the Church’s history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith.

The Polish Pope reinforces the foundational belief that the Church believes that in Christ there is mankind’s salvation. In paragraph 11 St John Paul II writes: Why mission? Because to us, as to St. Paul, “this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8). Newness of life in him is the “Good News” for men and women of every age: all are called to it and destined for it. Indeed, all people are searching for it, albeit at times in a confused way, and have a right to know the value of this gift and to approach it freely. The Church, and every individual Christian within her, may not keep hidden or monopolize this newness and richness which has been received from God’s bounty in order to be communicated to all mankind.

St John Paul II proposes to us the right understanding of the Kingdom of God which is propelled by the role of the Holy Spirit within the evangelization project. Hence, the missionary activity goes first outside the Church, namely to those to whom Christ is not known. Then, missionary activity heads to the internal core of the Church itself, within the Christian communities themselves which, although they enjoy a proper and ecclesial structure and are fired with that authentic Christian living and are committed to spread the Gospel message around them, always need to be strengthened more. Finally, there are those nations which traditionally were Christian but, and unfortunately, have lost the gift of living the faith on the way. It is these who are the focus of the New Evangelization. For St John Paul II, in this case what is needed is a “new evangelization” or a “re-evangelization.” (RM 33).

Within a context where the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matt 9:37), the Church is called to try to overcome the difficulties coming from fatigue, disenchantment, compromise, lack of interest and above all lack of joy and hope while inviting  theologians and professional Christian journalists to intensify the service they render to the Church’s mission in order to discover the deep meaning of their work, along the sure path of “thinking with the Church” (sentire cum Ecclesia) (RM 36).

In Redemptoris Missio John Paul II mentions the importance of media in the evangelization endeavor. He says: Since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the “new culture” created by modern communications (RM 37).

In what way are we using the Internet to evangelize, to spread the life transforming power of the Christian message?

Saint John Pope II, help us to be evangelizers for our world today as you were in your time. Amen.


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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.