As Pope Francis ends his apostolic trip to Colombia, we have the opportunity to reflect on his many speeches and see what he has to say to us and to the world. One speech in particular highlights this month's prayer intention, "That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen."
While addressing the bishops of Latin America, Pope Francis went on to explain the meaning behind a "Church in a Permanent State of Mission." He said, "The Gospel speaks of Jesus who, proceeding from the Father, journeys with his disciples through the fields and the towns of Galilee. His journeying is not meaningless. As Jesus walks, he encounters people. When he meets people, he draws near to them. When he draws near to them, he talks to them. When he talks to them, he touches them with his power. When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation.”
He further commented that, "We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies. We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them. The mission is carried out by one to one contact.”
When Pope Francis envisions parishes having a "missionary spirit" it is this type of personal encounter that he refers to. He challenges us to imitate Jesus' example of going out to the people to speak to them of their "concrete situations."
It is sometimes tempting in parish life to only worry about how many people are attending Mass on Sunday, or having a large group of people at the next Bible study. Preaching the Gospel is never a "numbers" game, but is focused on delivering the love, mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ to the people. This is our primary mission and it is easy to forget it when faced with the practical realities of running a parish.
As we further reflect on Pope Francis' intention for this month, let us consider ways in our local parish that we can assist in realizing a "Permanent State of Mission," encountering the people of our community and accompanying them in their particular situations.