Nov 16, 2014

Thirty-Third Sunday

The Talents of St. Margaret


It happens every seven or eight years - when the parish gets to celebrate Saint Margaret’s Day on a Sunday. Even though she was born nearly 1000 years ago in Eastern Europe, a journey into the unknown she took as a young girl with her family to England and then as a refugee to Scotland, would have implications and bear fruit for many hundreds of years to come.  This parish, which bears her name, is a testimony, not to her greatness, but to her holiness, which is worthy of imitation.

Even though a thousand years ago, fashions were different, communications were slow, health care was herbal, politics were bloody and wars commonplace, human nature hasn't really changed.  The institution of the Church back then was often caught up in power struggles, scandals, intrigue and tugs of war between opposing ideologies and different spiritualities. Nothing seems to have changed here either!


Though Margaret became the wife of a medieval king who was a skilled warrior and military leader, she herself, as a queen, could have easily entered into the politics of her day, secured for herself a comfortable life, used her position to win favors and influence and be the envy of every onlooker.  But, instead, she was the example of the kind of disciple Christ spoke of when having been given five talents, gave back five more.  How? Was it because of her royal position and stately office? No.  Christ explains in the Gospel “Well done my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.”

In a world where might and power and ideological influence over the minds and lives of others is often sought or even cherished, Christ is clear that we share in the “joy of God” by being faithful, first and foremost, in small matters. St. Margaret could have initiated great spiritual liturgies and workshops to which thousands could have participated. And maybe she did.  But what counted were those many hours she quietly and slowly read from the pages of the Bible, meditating on God’s Word and the Gospel Message.  

St. Margaret could have feasted on pheasant, she could have wined and dined with the lord and ladies of the Royal Court. And maybe she did from time to time.  But her personal affection for orphans, the poor and the destitute would see her open up the doors of her own kitchen to bring in the hungry, the starving and the homeless to her own table.

St. Margaret could have used her husband's position and resources to fund her own charitable causes or pet projects.  In fact, she did so. She had some beautiful churches built, monasteries and orphanages.  But it was her faithfulness to the sacraments and sacred vows of matrimony and her deep love for her husband that brought him closer to God and saved his soul.  It was her joy of motherhood that welcomed new life.  Her eight children would not simply number among future kings and queens. Some of them would also be saints, a credit to the influence of her gentle spirit of Christian holiness and virtue.

St. Margaret, not only familiar with the Gospel we have listen to today, would have also been familiar with the writings of St. Gregory the Great, pope at the beginning of the medieval period and whose influence eventually extended to the distant shores of England and beyond. I will conclude by quoting from his own reflections on today's portion of the Gospel. Not only would they have been applicable to the hopes and fears of a period in history sometimes called the “dark ages”, his spiritual insights into Christ’s words are also applicable to our world today.  

He says, “Whoever has love, receives other gifts as well. Whoever does not have love, loses even the gifts they appeared to have received. Hence it is necessary, my friends, that in everything you do, you be vigilant about guarding love.  True love is to love your friend in God and your enemy for the sake of God.  Whoever does not have this loses every good that they process.” (Forty Gospel Homilies)

May we, inspired by the Christian discipleship of St. Margaret, hold fast and protect that love we have received from God, to do little things well, sowing seeds of faith in the rich soil of our parish and family life.  And when the Lord returns, may we present to Him in due time and without fear, a rich harvest of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, dedicated husbands and wives, prayer-filled families, strong men, gentle women, a people holy and righteous in the Lord.

Nov 8, 2014

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

For the first 300 years, we did not have what we today generally call dedicated church buildings. Because there was active hostility towards Christians, Mass was offered in private homes, sometimes outdoors in remote locations, in cemeteries or any place that did not draw attention or public scrutiny.

In the same way as modern man, before going off to work might hit the gym, or stop in at the local coffee shop, the early Christians, in the early hours of the first working day (Sunday), before dawn would secretly disappear down alleyways and discretely enter, perhaps the side door, of someone's house or villa. And inside they might find fellow Christians all gathered round a wooden table, a makeshift altar. Voices would have been subdued, prayers whispered, the Mass offered as the sun would rise and first day of the week would begin. And as quietly as they gathered, quietly they would disperse.

Everything would change in the year 326 when the once pagan Roman Emperor Constantine was baptized a Christian by Pope Sylvester. In thanksgiving, the imperial place where it took place, was given to the pope to be used, not only for future baptisms, but also for the offering of the Mass and other sacraments. The Catholic Church was now out of hiding.  It had its first official building; it's first church building.  Dedicated to the Savior, this palace turned church, would become known as the Lateran Basilica  - Rome's first official church building, her first cathedral for the Bishop of Rome. Today we commemorate its dedication.

To allows us to reflect on the importance of a church building, as a sacred place where Christians gather to pray and to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass. This is not just a building, a gathering place or worship space. This is holy ground. Throughout history, God would meet his people at a particular place, a location where He would reveal His love and His power.  Think of the place of the burning bush, or the meeting tent and eventually the Temple that would house the Ark of the Covenant. Even the manger of Bethlehem, was also like a little church were shepherds and kings would gather to worship the Christ-Child. Of course, there was also the room of the Last Supper, the place of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit came down. Yes, our homes are important as sacred places where we pray secretly and as a family. But here, is our sacred rendezvous place where the whole family of earth and the family of heaven are united together in one supreme act of the offering of ourselves to God, through Christ.

Therefore, this is no simple building. Just over seven years ago it was dedicated to Christ. This building, in a way received all the sacraments of initiation that a person would receive. When the doors were opened, we walked an empty building.

Then the bishop blessed the water in the baptismal font, and then sprinkled the whole building with the holy water - the building was baptized! Then he took the Sacred Oil of Chrism and smeared it on the altar and on the walls. Fire was blessed and candles were lit and incense filled the air. The Church received her Confirmation. Then Mass was offered for the first time on to altar and all we're feed with the Body of Christ. Afterwards, the Sacred Hosts were placed in the open mouth of tabernacle - this church received, in a way, her first holy communion. No longer simply a beautiful building, but now, a sacred place, holy ground, here the presence of God remains. In a way, we are inside Christ's Body. The Altar - His sacrificial Heart. The transept - His body, His arms. We are the living stones, the members of the Body of Christ. And from His pierced Heart, His altar, Christ feeds and strengthens us with his own body and blood.

With this in mind, I am often tempted to think of this church as God's embassy on earth. Inside its walls, we become aware of our citizenship of heaven, of our longing for the new and eternal Jerusalem where all the saints of God look to as their true homeland. Outside of these walls, we are all God's ambassadors, speaking to the world on behalf of Christ and of the eternal values of the Kingdom of God. And at times, when we find ourselves in the midst of wars and conflicts, at times being shadowed by the agents of the evil one and in need to find a place of refuge, this church and it's grounds provide true sanctuary, a safe place, a holy place.

And even in the wee hours of the night, when the doors are locked and there is no one about, the candle above the tabernacle is always on duty, always standing guard, watching over the divine presence of Christ before it, like Mary watching over her child. What happens here, (this altar) and who remains here (the tabernacle) extends the territory of heaven to where we are now. 

Rev 21: 3   Behold God’s dwelling with the human race.
He will dwell with them and they will be his people,
and God himself with them will be their God.

All Souls Day - The Faithful Departed





On this day and during this month when we remember the souls of the faithful departed, our thoughts naturally resist thinking of death, our lives are often stubbornly focused on living and our goals are often set on working towards accomplishments.

Death is a consequence of sin. Though our physical nature is mortal, death was not part of God’s design for us. Therefore God, because He so loved the world, would even experience death and, in do ing so, would defeated it. The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave is now for us the prototype of what eternal life should be for each of us after our death. Every Sunday in the Creed we profess our belief in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.


However, life everlasting is not necessary heaven. It can be life everlasting separated forever from God’s sight.  “We can not be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves.” To die by our own free choice unrepentant, in a state of mortal sin (with a fixed attitude of active or passive rebellion against God) is to be cast into “Hell”. (cf. CCC. 1033).  

God will never force us to enter into heaven. Instead, as long as there is time, he provides continuous opportunities to walk in the direction of heaven. Not only do we bear the responsibility to get to heaven, we are also responsibility for the salvation or damnation of those whose lives we touch or influence. The choices we make for our children, the influences we have on our family, the impact we can make in our society will also be taken into account when we face our maker. Thank God, for us here and now, there is still time.

When we pray for the dead, for the holy souls, we acknowledge that our love is never wasted, that friendship and love can reach out over the dark expanse of death.  Out of this close bond of affection and love we pray for our dead, that as they approach the judgment seat of God, that they will not be afraid but trust all the more that God is a merciful God. And if they are judged worthy for heaven, we pray that before entering the purity of God’s presence, they may have the courage to let go of all attachments to their former lives. 


When we depart this world, even the memory of sin in our minds must be purged and our focus must be completely and freely directed towards God and God alone. This purging, we call “purgatory”. It is the final pilgrimage of the soul into heaven, in the gentle dawn of heaven’s light, the soul is cleansed and purged of imperfections. For in heaven there is no place for any lingering shadows.

Purification in preparation for heaven can be as painful as it is beautiful, like the blows of a sculptor’s chisel against the hard rough surfaced rock as the beauty is slowly reveled and defined. And we can take some of the hard knocks for them, the holy souls. In the economy of salvation, we can focus our own extra efforts to pray and make extra sacrifices for the holy souls instead of ourselves, to ease their pathway to heaven, to provide encouragement for them as they journey towards God. 
For this is the reason we live, in order to get to heaven – to look upon the face of God in Jesus Christ our Savior. 

Let us pray for our beloved dead that they will see God and rejoice in His presence forever. Let us pray for ourselves that as we approach the hidden Lord through the veil of the Sacrament of the Mass, that one day we will see Him face to face and with all our loved ones, whom we pray for in particular during this month of November. We do so because we know our love can reach beyond death to the shores of heaven itself.

Oct 31, 2014

All Saints Day

Reflecting on the Second Vatican Council's
 Call for Universal Holiness in the Church 
Lumen Gentium


As Catholics, we have a very unique understanding of what the Church is. We do not look upon ourselves as a denomination, a simple or even complex religious organization. Nor do we understand our belonging to the Catholic Church as a type of membership of a group with holds traditional or unique understandings of the Christian message compared to other religious groups or denominations. Nor do we use the term ‘the Church” as a generic catch all for everyone who identifies themselves as Christian.

Instead, our Catholic faith understands that, from Christ’s perspective and His intention, He has only one Church. His Church on earth is the embodiment of His love and as such, the Church is uniquely holy. For this reason, we do not call the Church an “it”. We call the Church “she”. And more so – she is Christ’s unique Bride.

From our own perspective at times, when we take note of the sins of her members, or when we are not comfortable about a teaching or practice, it is tempting to walk away.  But from Christ’s perspective, He will never walk away or abandon his Bride. He has considered His Church worth dying for.  It is by His grace, that the Church is uniquely holy, despite our own individual failings and sins.

The Church is holy, therefore, not because of you or me.  But because Christ has invested His whole life in her and for her. The Church is Holy because she alone has been given everything that is necessary for anyone to reach the fullness of Christian life and to reach the goal of heaven. And for this reason, it is through the Church we are assured that, when we repent and confess our sins, and accept forgiveness, we are also given the necessary strategies to once again get on track to reach our goal of heaven.

It is therefore through His Holy Church that Christ Himself communicates the necessary help for each one of us, in our own particular way of life and living, not just a roadmap to heaven. As part of His Church, Christ continually pours out His life into our souls, so that we, in turn can support each other, encourage each other, coach each other in the path of holiness.  Is this not what saint’s do?  Is this not what each one of us is called to do for the sake of each other – brothers and sisters of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church – help each other become saints? And we can only do so, if we allow our ordinary skills and gifts to be infused by the grace of God and used towards the salvation of all.

But we do so, not as independent practitioners.  Although each one of us, has personal gifts and different duties and responsibilities in life, there is no place in this one family of God for individualism, self-investment and isolationism. This is not the feast day of “I’m a saint - hope you are too!” No. It is the feast day of “All Saints”.

Bishops, priests and deacons are called to the same holiness that husbands, wives, mothers and fathers are – each their own unique way, never in competition, but in common. Are you married? Then through the Church’s sacrament of matrimony God will give you the necessary grace to become saints.  Do you have the responsibility of a father or a mother? Through this calling God will give you the grace to become a saint. Do you live alone? Then with a dedicated life of prayer, God will give you the grace to be a saint. Are you working or are you a student? Assisted by the wisdom of the Church, God will give you the grace to become a saint. By the measure in which you engage the world pursuing the call to be holy, God measures His grace in our lives to help us to be unique saints.

But a special word to those weighed down by sickness, weakness or even poverty. The greater the burden, the more intense one is invited through God’s love, to share the Cross of Christ, not just for one’s own salvation, but for the salvation of others.  In every situation we find ourselves, whether it lasts a moment or stays with us a while, nothing can separate us from the love of God. No opportunity to grow in holiness, to become a saint is ever wasted.

But is it simply enough for us to be sons and daughters of the Holy Church? Will that, in itself, make us saints. No. As children of God we listen to Mother Church. She shows us what we must do to keep the flame of faith burning in our lives.  Mother Church proclaims the Word of God, explains it to us, teaches us, encourages and challenges us. She does what the Blessed Mother Mary did at the wedding feast of Cana, as she points us in the direction of her Son, Jesus, and tells us, "Do whatever He asks of you".

And where and when do we hear Him, but through the Gospel proclaimed by the Church and lived out in our everyday lives. Where do we find the strength to do so. Our strength comes first and foremost from the Holy Eucharist, the Mass which is the very strength and power of God in our midst, empowering us to love in the manner of Christ, giving our lives, even sacrificially for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world. For we have to care about the world and it's direction. Not because we are driven by our want to be right. We are driven by our love for humanity, Christ's love for humanity, our brothers and sisters. And if our love is pure and holy, then like Christ, knowing that all things in this world are passing, we will make whatever sacrifice is needed to attain the everlasting goal of heaven. All saints is our goal for everyone.


Summary and Homily for All Saints Day

As Catholics, we have a very unique understanding of what the Church is.  She is Christ’s unique Bride.  Even though we sin and are together a group of sinners He will never walk away or abandon his Bride. He has considered His Church worth dying for.  It is by His grace, that the Church is uniquely holy, despite our own individual failings and sins. 

The Church is holy, therefore, not because of you or me.  And for this reason, it is through the Church we are assured that, when we repent and confess our sins, and accept forgiveness, we are also given the necessary strategies to once again get on track to reach our goal of heaven.

It is therefore through His Holy Church, Christ continually pours out His life into our souls, so that we, in turn can support each other, encourage each other, coach each other in the path of holiness.  Is this not what saint’s do?  We do so, not as independent practitioners.  This not the feast day of “I’m a saint - hope you are too!” No. It is the feast day of “All Saints”.

In every situation we find ourselves, we have the opportunity to be a saint, a saint who listens to Holy Mother Church as she proclaims the Word of God, explains it to us, teaches us, encourages and challenges us. She does what the Blessed Mother Mary did at the wedding feast of Cana, as she points us in the direction of her Son, Jesus, and tells us, "Do whatever He asks of you". We listen to Him and do what it takes to become a saint.

Yet we need strength. This comes from the Mass, empowering us to love in the manner of Christ, giving our lives, even sacrificially for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world.
For we have to care about the world and it's direction. Not because we are driven by our want to be right. We are driven by our love for humanity, Christ's love for humanity, all our brothers and sisters. And if our love is pure and holy, then like Christ, knowing that all things in this world are passing, we will make whatever sacrifice is needed to attain the everlasting goal of heaven. All saints is our goal.



Oct 26, 2014

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Loving God and Loving Neighbor

When our Blessed Lord faced various religious and political groups of His day, many challenged His words or tried to trip Him up using their own. How did our Blessed Lord respond? He reminded them, as He does us that it was not about taking sides, winning arguments or successes with changing the opinions of those you disagree with.  Instead it is about God’s commandment to love Him and our neighbor with everything we got – with our whole mind, heart and soul.

To respond to this commandment to love, where do we start? Do we even know how to love? It is sometimes easier to equate loving God and our neighbor with how we feel towards them.  But feelings come and go. Feelings and emotions are easily confused, provoked, stimulated and even exploited.

To seek what is true, to discern what is good, to follow what is right, begins with the recognition that God has given us commandments.  In ordinary human language, this translates that we recognize that there are universal moral standards about what is right and wrong. That is not a feeling. That’s a fact.  These commandments, not only guide us towards authentic relationships with God and our neighbor. They also protect us from self-deception and from harmful relationships.

In a culture that often prides itself in being “tolerant”, “open-minded” and “nonjudgmental”, it is ironic that there is so much intolerance, closed-mindedness and even, active hostility towards the slightest suggestion that there are, in fact, moral absolutes about what is right and what is wrong, especially with regard to our behavior.

Sometimes, when that is pointed out, a rebuttal is often heard “Who are you to judge?” In other words, “You have no right to make moral judgments.”

But what if I responded, “I do, in fact, have the right to make moral judgments because I am a rational human being, aware of certain fundamental principles of logical and moral reasoning. I judge myself capable and qualified. In fact if you think that I have no right to make a judgment, then why are you judging me?”

Now, of course, this very ‘heady” stuff! Often times it only serves to get people more emotional, and that defeats even the premise of appealing to reason.

And most of us do not find ourselves engaged in the world simply at a philosophical or intellectual level.  Our relationships are often “messy”.  We are forever conscious that we are incapable of loving perfectly.  Only God can. We can’t.  We experience, not only the sins of the world, but we are always conscious of our own sinfulness, our own weakness and vulnerability.  This is not an excuse to “dumb down” how we find ourselves, or as an excuse to choose the path of least resistance as we walk through an incredibly complex world in which we are faced with many challenges. 

To be like Christ, to be Christ-like, we will find ourselves tempted in the desert, pushed around by the crowd, moved at times with compassion, cornered by opponents, forced to respond to situations not of our making, asked to give help, having to teach, and looked to for advice.  So how do we love God with everything we have and love our neighbor when we find ourselves in the midst of the unrelenting storms of this world? 

Well, what did Christ do to the storms of his day, whether He found himself on a boat with his disciples or in the city encircled by his opponents? He silenced them. 

It is this silence, a sacred silence, which we too must seek.  When you love someone, it is often enough to simply gaze upon their face without a word said or a response made – to hold them simply in your heart, to think of them with fondness, to lift them up gently in prayer. 


God often speaks to us in whispers.  When we find ourselves in the midst of the storm, allow Him to place His finger gently over your lips – hush!  Only then can we better hear the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd and the inner still voice of our conscience, and not be afraid to allow it, with the help of the Church’s wisdom, to temper our hearts, purify our souls and form our minds.

Oct 19, 2014

Parish Message for World Mission Sunday


I take great encouragement on this World Mission Sunday from the inspirational words of Pope Francis. I do this, not because the media has captured his charming and extrovert personality, or because he is from the mission territory of South America or that he is a member of the great missionary religious order, the Jesuits.  I do so because he is the Bishop of Rome, the ancient city that gave us the joint witness of the two great missionaries - St. Peter and St. Paul. 

Both these saints arrived in Rome after extensive missionary work. St. Paul had preached the Gospel throughout the lands of modern Turkey, Greece and even looked to bring Christ to the shores of Spain.   St. Peter would travel north from Jerusalem, up through modern day Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey and from there arrived in Rome.  Both these saints would witness to Christ by the deaths they suffered for the faith they preached. In Rome, St. Paul was beheaded and St. Peter, crucified.

If either of these apostles remained at home, the landscape of the Christian faith and its contribution to the world would be another story.  It would be very probable that those of us who do not have family roots in the Middle East, (and that would be many) would probably not be Christians today. God only knows what religion, if any, we would be, or how history would have unfolded and what language we would today be speaking, (probably Arabic).  I say that, because it was, for example, Pope St. Leo the Great in the fifth century who established peace with the barbarian tribes who conquered the Roman Empire.  And it was Pope St. Pius V, a thousand years later, who coordinated the defence of Europe against the rapidly growing Muslim Ottoman Empire.  

It is therefore, the pope, as the Bishop of Rome, the city of Saints Peter and Paul, who is our visible reminder of Christ’s command to His Church to go and make disciples of all the nations.  It is for that reason that the popes throughout history were proactive in the missionary activities of the Church.  A good example of this was during the 16th century, the popes sending missionaries west to the Americas and Eastward around India to the China, India and the Philippines.

Despite the incredible missionary work of the Church throughout the world, in his address to the Church for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis reminds us that “today vast numbers of people still do not know Jesus Christ.”

This is why our focus of World Mission Sunday this year is the example of the Church in Mongolia. Mongolia borders Russia and China. For comparison it is the combined size of all the States of the Northwest and the whole Southwest put together.  After the fall of communism, Rome sent three missionaries to Mongolia in 1991.  There are now 600 Catholics in that vast territory. 

St. Margaret’s has always been generous in our support of the Missionaries and mission territory. Every year we invite a missionary home to tell us what its like and how we can help.  World Mission Sunday, sees every missionary in the world and every parish church support each other globally, pray for each other across the great distances and recommit ourselves to make Christ better known at home, and known throughout the world. That is why there is the special offering envelope today in the pew, a reminder that we owe our faith to the sacrifices of other and, in gratitude, we respond with likewise sacrifices and requests for generosity on our part.

Pope Francis also asks us to “pray through the intercession of Mary, the model of humble and joyful evangelization, that the Church may become a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples and the source of rebirth for our world.”

Oct 18, 2014

Papal Message for World Mission Sunday

Message of Pope Francis for the World Mission Day 2014


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today vast numbers of people still do not know Jesus Christ. For this reason, the mission ad gentes continues to be most urgent. All the members of the Church are called to participate in this mission, for the Church is missionary by her very nature: she was born "to go forth". World Mission Day is a privileged moment when the faithful of various continents engage in prayer and concrete gestures of solidarity in support of the young Churches in mission lands. It is a celebration of grace and joy. A celebration of grace, because the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, offers wisdom and strength to those who are obedient to his action. A celebration of joy, because Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, sent to evangelize the world, supports and accompanies our missionary efforts. This joy of Jesus and missionary disciples leads me to propose a biblical icon, which we find in the Gospel of Luke (cf. 10:21-23) .

1. The Evangelist tells us that the Lord sent the seventy-two disciples two by two into cities and villages to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was near, and to prepare people to meet Jesus. After carrying out this mission of preaching, the disciples returned full of joy: joy is a dominant theme of this first and unforgettable missionary experience. Yet the divine Master told them: "Do not rejoice because the demons are subject to you; but rejoice because your names are written in heaven. At that very moment Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said: ‘I give you praise, Father...’ And, turning to the disciples in private he said, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see’" (Lk 10:20-21, 23).

Luke presents three scenes. Jesus speaks first to his disciples, then to the Father, and then again to the disciples. Jesus wanted to let the disciples share his joy, different and greater than anything they had previously experienced.

2. The disciples were filled with joy, excited about their power to set people free from demons. But Jesus cautioned them to rejoice not so much for the power they had received, but for the love they had received, "because your names are written in heaven" (Lk 10:20). The disciples were given an experience of God’s love, but also the possibility of sharing that love. And this experience is a cause for gratitude and joy in the heart of Jesus. Luke saw this jubilation in a perspective of the trinitarian communion: "Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit", turning to the Father and praising him. This moment of deep joy springs from Jesus’ immense filial love for his Father, Lord of heaven and earth, who hid these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the childlike (cf. Lk 10:21). God has both hidden and revealed, and in this prayer of praise it is his revealing which stands out. What is it that God has revealed and hidden? The mysteries of his Kingdom, the manifestation of divine lordship in Jesus and the victory over Satan.

God has hidden this from those who are all too full of themselves and who claim to know everything already. They are blinded by their presumptuousness and they leave no room for God. One can easily think of some of Jesus’ contemporaries whom he repeatedly admonished, but the danger is one that always exists and concerns us too. The "little ones", for their part, are the humble, the simple, the poor, the marginalized, those without voice, those weary and burdened, whom Jesus pronounced "blessed". We readily think of Mary, Joseph, the fishermen of Galilee and the disciples whom Jesus called as he went preaching.

3. "Yes, Father, for such has been your gracious will" (Lk 10:21). These words of Jesus must be understood as referring to his inner exultation. The word "gracious" describes the Father’s saving and benevolent plan for humanity. It was this divine graciousness that made Jesus rejoice, for the Father willed to love people with the same love that he has for his Son. Luke also alludes to the similar exultation of Mary: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my Savior" (Lk 1:47). This is the Good News that leads to salvation. Mary, bearing in her womb Jesus, the evangelizer par excellence, met Elizabeth and rejoiced in the Holy Spirit as she sang her Magnificat. Jesus, seeing the success of his disciples’ mission and their resulting joy, rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and addressed his Father in prayer. In both cases, it is joy for the working of salvation, for the love with which the Father loves his Son comes down to us, and through the Holy Spirit fills us and grants us a share in the trinitarian life.

The Father is the source of joy. The Son is its manifestation, and the Holy Spirit its giver. Immediately after praising the Father, so the evangelist Matthew tells us, Jesus says: "Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-30). "The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew" (Evangelii Gaudium, 1).

The Virgin Mary had a unique experience of this encounter with Jesus, and thus became "causa nostrae laetitiae". The disciples, for their part, received the call to follow Jesus and to be sent by him to preach the Gospel (cf. Mk 3:14), and so they were filled with joy. Why shouldn’t we too enter this flood of joy?

4. "The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience" (Evangelii Gaudium, 2). Humanity greatly needs to lay hold of the salvation brought by Christ. His disciples are those who allow themselves to be seized ever more by the love of Jesus and marked by the fire of passion for the Kingdom of God and the proclamation of the joy of the Gospel. All the Lord’s disciples are called to nurture the joy of evangelization. The Bishops, as those primarily responsible for this proclamation, have the task of promoting the unity of the local Church in her missionary commitment. They are called to acknowledge that the joy of communicating Jesus Christ is expressed in a concern to proclaim him in the most distant places, as well as in a constant outreach to the peripheries of their own territory, where great numbers of the poor are waiting for this message.

Many parts of the world are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Often this is due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervour in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract. The joy of the Gospel is born of the encounter with Christ and from sharing with the poor. For this reason I encourage parish communities, associations and groups to live an intense fraternal life, grounded in love for Jesus and concern for the needs of the most disadvantaged. Wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise. Among these vocations, we should not overlook lay vocations to mission. There has been a growing awareness of the identity and mission of the lay faithful in the Church, as well as a recognition that they are called to take an increasingly important role in the spread of the Gospel. Consequently they need to be given a suitable training for the sake of an effective apostolic activity.

5. "God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7). World Mission Day is also an occasion to rekindle the desire and the moral obligation to take joyful part in the mission ad gentes. A monetary contribution on the part of individuals is the sign of a self-offering, first to the Lord and then to others; in this way a material offering can become a means for the evangelization of humanity built on love.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this World Mission Day my thoughts turn to all the local Churches. Let us not be robbed of the joy of evangelization! I invite you to immerse yourself in the joy of the Gospel and nurture a love that can light up your vocation and your mission. I urge each of you to recall, as if you were making an interior pilgrimage, that "first love" with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your heart, not for the sake of nostalgia but in order to persevere in joy. The Lord’s disciples persevere in joy when they sense his presence, do his will and share with others their faith, hope and evangelical charity.

Let us pray through the intercession of Mary, the model of humble and joyful evangelization, that the Church may become a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples and the source of rebirth for our world.

FRANCISCUS PP.