Recently diocesan appointments in our diocese came into effect. The same is most likely true of every diocese in the country. The familiar face in the pulpit and the familiar faces in the pews may well be a memory on this October morning. Mission!
What is the mission? It’s about proclaiming God’s Word and being shaped and guided in God’s Way. It’s about hearing something of God’s message and wanting desperately to share it with others so that the sharing may continue and the story may be told. It’s not about titles or control. It’s not about thumping pulpits. It’s not about laying heavy burdens on shoulders. It’s about the practical. It’s about doing what can be done and doing it now.
A missionary once wrote about his experience in his parish and of feeling disappointment when he noticed a pump that had been put in the village fall victim to neglect. He said he felt like “giving out” to the people and telling them they must attend to the mechanical welfare of the pump, oiling, maintaining and respecting this gift in their midst. He didn’t! He remembered a man in his native Mayo parish being asked if the car he was selling used oil – “she would if she got it”, the prospective customer was assured. The missionary realised the difference between his native parish and his missionary posting was more to do with miles than mindset. His point, well made, was that people are people.
Today we see people at the heart of Mission. The service of people is vital. “The Son of Man came to serve not to be served” the Gospel tells us. Missionaries leave what is familiar to them to become familiar for and with others. “Familiar” – FAMILY – similar words with the same root. Friendships are formed through mission. Faith is shared and deepened through mission. Hope is given through mission. Love is lived through mission. At the heart of all this is service.
Mission Sunday reminds us that the car in Ireland and the pump in Africa need to be minded and serviced. More than that, it reminds us that people are people – the People of God. As priests and parishes in Ireland get to know each other in these days of new parish appointments, we remember missionary men and women, the roads they travel, the hands they hold and the faith they nourish.
It is a global Church – a global Parish – we’re all in this together at the service of one another.