This year for World Mission Sunday 2023, Pope Francis chose the theme, “Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move,” based on the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke.
“Those two disciples were confused and dismayed, but their encounter with Christ in the word and in the breaking of the bread sparked in them a desire to set out again and proclaim that the Lord truly had risen,” Pope Francis said in his Jan. 6 message on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
“In the Gospel account we perceive this change in the disciples through a few revealing images: their hearts burned within them as they heard the Scriptures explained by Jesus, their eyes opened as they recognized him and, ultimately, their feet set out on the way. The Risen Lord remains close to his missionary disciples and walks beside them always. The image of the feet setting out reminds us of the ‘missio ad gentes,’ the mission entrusted to the Church by the risen Lord to evangelize all individuals and peoples, even to the ends of the earth.”
Presently in the world where so much continues to divide us, World Mission Sunday unites us all as missionaries to help build the Body of Christ through a shared mission of hope, goodness and compassion. To be in mission is to be willing to think as Christ does, to love as Christ does, to share as Christ does and to welcome all of our brothers and sisters as Christ does. This message reinforces the idea that together as disciples we are urged to carry out Christ’s mission and message; to live the mission entrusted to us; to bear witness and to be witnesses of Christ throughout the world.
World Mission Sunday is set aside for Catholics worldwide to celebrate their individual and communal call to mission, to solidarity, to unity and to evangelization. Mission is so central to the Gospel and the needs are so urgent throughout the world, that I encourage you to embrace this responsibility wholeheartedly. Every parish, every home, every workplace must be a place of mission awareness, prayer and sacrifice.
Through this World Mission Sunday celebration, our Mission Office and Society for the Propagation of the Faith connect with the loving work of great missionaries in every time and every place. It shares directly in the work of the Holy See, not with one mission but with all missions of the world.
Thousands of priests, religious and laity who serve in various ways in mission dioceses throughout the world depend on annual subsidies from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and on the prayers of all of us. A special collection will be taken during the month of October to support these mission churches, which provide a spiritual home for those most in need, offering them the Lord’s peace, hope and love.
May all our hearts be on fire as we live out Christ’s mission in the world, being his feet on the move in our own communities.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
+ Bishop Patrick Neary, C.S.C., the 10th bishop of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota.