Missionary Blessings
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

As a twelve-year old altar boy, I had dreams of becoming a missionary. All the priests that I knew then, were missionaries. They belonged to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who came from America. They only spoke English. They were parish priests and school directors. Any boy who served mass or accompanied the priests to the barrios eventually became an English speaker. The exposure was more effective than any English class.

I could have joined the Oblates, if not for a distant uncle who visited us at home. He was an army chaplain and he looked smart in his uniform. He was a secular priest from Iloilo. He eventually retired as a Brigadier General about the same time I was ordained as a diocesan priest for Cotabato.

In a vicarious way, I found fulfillment of my desire to become a missionary. I have former students in the seminary who now serve as missionaries in South and Central America, Papua, Thailand, Australia, the United States, Canada, and Europe. The missionary direction has changed. In the days when I was an altar boy, the Philippines was a receiving country. In 1972, Pope Paul VI challenged the Philippine Church to send missionaries to other Asian countries and the whole world. Filipino Catholics responded to the challenge and Filipino missionaries, men and wome, lay and religious are presently all over the world.

I have experienced giving mission appeals in about six states in the U.S. This is a regular event in American parishes. A missionary (that’s me as sent by my bishop) talks about missionary work in a particular territory. They found my talks about church life in the Philippines and various missionary projects on social development, catechesis, organizing communities, and establishing schools, interesting. The mission collections that were donated in these masses were sent to the our diocese.

Today, World Mission Sunday, let us help our missionaries. Let us call to mind, remember in our prayers, and assist them with our financial resources. Just as we received the faith from the work of missionaries in the past, we are to share that faith to others. The missionary mandate is very clear in the four gospels, “Go, throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people” (Mk. 16:1) If the Lord Jesus’ first words to His disciples were “Come, follow me,” His parting words were, “Go then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples” (Mt.28:19, Lk. 24:47). Jesus prayed for his disciples as he was about to leave them, “I sent them into the world, just as you sent me into the world” (Jn. 17:18).

Today, as in the past, missionary work is not an easy task. Missionaries get killed whether in Africa, Asia, Europe, or the Americas, for the reason that they preach and live the Gospel. In some instances, missionary work is caught up in economic, political, and cultural complications. Some missionaries are persecuted for developmental work among the poor and the outcast, others for suspicions of favoring a political cause. Missionaries are also being persecuted for the “cultural invasion” that they bring, both of their home culture and their Christian faith.

When we consider recent church documents on missionary activity, we see there the interplay between proclamation and dialogue. The missionary, by his presence and word proclaims the good news about life in Jesus. This news may be perceived as strange and threatening. On the other hand, the missionary attempts to integrate this thread of good news into the fabric of life of the community in a way that is respectful of their culture. It is a delicate dance of tradition and newness, of culture and venture.

Today we are in solidarity with our missionaries and we pray that the word of the Lord to Abraham will be an ispiration for them, “Go out from your fatherland and go to that country which I shall show you. You will be a blessing to that country and the people will bless you” (Gen. 12:1-2).

Action starter: Be a blessing to all you meet.