Witnessing youthful faith

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | October 9, 2018 | 0 Comments

The first time I ever went on a mission trip was in college, when I joined a group visiting our archdiocesan mission in Venezuela. I was filled with excitement and anxiety as we embarked on this adventure of faith. I knew that mission had something to do with sharing faith, but I wondered how I would be able to communicate and bring God to Venezuela. When we finally arrived, I was surprised to find out that God was already there!

God was especially alive among the youth who gathered regularly to study the Bible, learn about their faith and join together in various acts of service in their community. Their joy and hospitality toward us visitors took my breath away. When it was time to go, I wondered who received more from the experience.

That is the thing about Christ’s mission; it is truly in the mutual sharing of life and faith that the Gospel is made known.

Celebrated Oct. 21, World Mission Day is a time for the Church around the world to be reminded that it is in mission that the Church is renewed and to reflect the spirit of our missionary God. The character of the Gospel is that it is ever young and ever new. God continues to call us into his abundant life and send us forth in his spirit. It is a youthful spirit ready for adventure and hungry for meaning and purpose for one’s life.

This year we are invited to draw our attention to that youthful spirit of the Gospel. In “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis draws attention to the spirit of youth brimming with life’s possibilities and the spirit it inspires. He says that each of our lives “is” a mission. “Each one of us is called to reflect on this fact: ‘I am a mission on this Earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world.’”

ATTENTION TO MISSIONSHeld annually on the second-to-last Sunday in October, World Mission Day draws attention to missions around the world and raises funds for their support. World Mission Day is observed Oct. 21 this year with a focus on youth. As this year’s observance falls during the Vatican Synod on youth and young adults, Pope Francis addressed his message for 2018 World Mission Day to young people, telling them that “life is a mission.” Funds collected during Masses on World Mission Day support the Pontifical Mission Societies, which support missions in certain dioceses around the world, including Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, where the mission parish of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is located.

In the same way, mission revitalizes faith. This is something we learn about our faith when we share with another. We learn more about who we are and who God is for us. Pope Francis says that each of us “is” the mission of Christ because we are missionary by our nature. On World Mission Day, each year we renew our missionary identity so that we may share the gifts of faith with others. In doing so, the Church is restored to her youthful, self-inspiration by the Gospel. And young people play a key role in giving themselves fully to God’s plan in their life. Seeing young people excited about their faith and willing to share themselves in serving others can energize and renew us.

At our archdiocesan mission in Venezuela, young people play a vital role in building up the Church. For example, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is a means for young people to visit the sick, bring food to the hungry, clean and provide household chores to those disabled. The young people bring their spirit of joy, a listening ear, and a love of life into homes and settings too often lonely and dark by isolation and illness. These young people are not only the future of the Church, they are already witnessing Christ in the present. (See related story on page 20.)

On World Mission Day, we lift up and pray for the young, missionary Church where the Gospel is fresh and the Church is growing. We are invited to accompany this youthful Gospel in our own lives. We are invited to share our faith and serve others in need so that our joy may grow and our faith may deepen and we shall be revitalized. May this World Mission Day lead us to the Good News of Jesus that is ever young and new. And may we be the children of God.

Deacon Friesen is director of the Center for Mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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