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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. Today is Mission Sunday – the day in October each year that reminds us of our missionary calling as baptized Christians to live not just for ourselves but for others and to embrace a life that is poured out in service as St Paul describes his own life as it draws to a close in the second reading today.

Here in the parish of Wexford, the experience of our Parish Mission – ‘A Mission for All’ is still fresh in our minds having taken place from 2nd to 9th October. One of the highlights for me was the Friday night event in the Wexford County Council building where the theme of the evening was ‘BELIEVING AND BELONGING’. During the celebration, representatives from about ten countries spoke on behalf of their nations and told us a little about how they came to Wexford and have now made it their home. Each nationality shared some of their national food and many shared some of their traditional music. As the host church, Neil Foley spoke on our behalf as the Catholic Christian community of Wexford and explained the thinking behind the event and how it is part of our mission as Christians to include and to make people feel welcome. At the end, we all stood and sang ‘Amazing grace’ – Christians and Muslims side by side.

For me, the event was a triumph because it showed the Church at its best – reaching out to the peripheries, going out to the edges and extending the warmth and mercy of Christ to everyone. Not only did the Church bring all these people together from all over the world but it also brought them closer to one another in a way that would not have happened otherwise. For us as a Catholic Christian parish, the event was statement of confidence and intent – that we are prepared to meet the future and accept the fact that if we are to survive into the future, to be a missionary parish is the only option. The Church is a family that embraces believers from all over the world and models how a united humanity can exist and thrive. The event reminded us that to preach the Gospel as Christ asked us ‘to the ends of the earth’, no longer means that we have to go abroad. Rather it means that we have to embrace different people who now live on our doorsteps.

In the words of Pope Francis for this ‘World Mission Sunday’:

“The words ‘to the ends of the earth’ challenge us all to go beyond our geographical boundaries and comfort zones into situations and places where missionary witnesses of Christ have not arrived to bring the good news of his love. The church must constantly keep looking outwards and testify to all people whatever their circumstances the love of Christ”.

He continues: “Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities. I repeat Moses’ great desire for the people of God on their journey: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” (Num 11:29). Indeed, would that all of us in the Church were what we already are by virtue of baptism: prophets, witnesses, missionaries of the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth!”

Friends, we caught a glimpse of this Church alive on that Friday night 7th October. There is no turning back now but only going forward. The Pharisee looked down on the tax collector and judged him. Such self-righteousness destroys community. Looking across from each other in respect builds community and leads to faith. Let us continue to build the Church with hearts that pour out with joy and generous welcome to all.


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