Pope Francis, in his 2024 World Mission Day Message, said that the Church’s mission is directed towards all peoples and requires the participation of every baptized Christian.
In the text, he reflected on the Gospel parable of the Wedding Banquet, where the king tells his servants “Go therefore to the thoroughfares, and invite to the marriage feast as many as you find”.
“In the king’s command to his servants,” the pontiff wrote, “we find two words that express the heart of the mission: the verbs ‘to go out’ and ‘to invite’.”
The Holy Father reflected on each of these words in turn.
“Mission,” the Pope said, “is a tireless going out to all men and women, in order to invite them to encounter God and enter into communion with him”, just as Jesus, “the Good Shepherd and messenger of the Father, went out in search of the lost sheep”.
Turning to consider the king’s exhortation to “invite”, he said that “here we can see another, no less important, aspect of the mission entrusted by God.”
“As we can imagine,” the pope said, “the servants conveyed the king’s invitation with urgency but also with great respect and kindness.”
Pope Francis stressed that christians today, should do the same, as they are called to preach the Gospel with “joy, magnanimity and benevolence that are the fruits of the Holy Spirit within them.”
Meanwhile, the pope said the reference to the marriage feast brings to mind two other dimensions of mission: the eschatological (that is, the dimension having to do with the end times) and the Eucharistic.
The king’s banquet, he said, stands in for the heavenly banquet: “it is an image of ultimate salvation in the Kingdom of God.”
The Pope said that for the many early Christians who believed the Second Coming of Christ to be imminent , “missionary zeal had a powerful eschatological dimension. They sensed the urgency of the preaching of the Gospel.”
“Today too, it is important to maintain this perspective”, he emphasized.
However, at the same time, the Pope noted that the next life is “anticipated even now in the banquet of the Eucharist”.
“The invitation to the eschatological banquet that we bring to everyone in our mission of evangelization is intrinsically linked to the invitation to the Eucharistic table, where the Lord feeds us with his word and with his Body and Blood”, he said.
The final portion of the Holy Father’s message concerned the fact that the king extends his invitation to “everyone”.
“This is the heart of mission,” the Pope said, “that ‘all’, excluding no one.”
He said that Christ’s disciples “have always had a heartfelt concern for all persons, whatever their social or even moral status”, noting that, in the parable, the king orders the the servants to gather “all whom they found, both good and bad”, as well as “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame”.
“The mission for all requires the commitment of all.” This, he said, implies that, in order to become more truly missionary, the Church must also become more synodal: “Synodality is essentially missionary and, vice versa, mission is always synodal”, Pope Francis stressed.