Freedom for Mission and Mission for Freedom
The Fortnight for Freedom initiative is a call to pray, reflect and contribute to a better understanding of – and respect for – religious freedom in a way that lifts up all people. The theme this year is Freedom for Mission.
Mission is fundamental to being a complete Christian. Saint John Paul II affirmed that “the Church is missionary by her very nature” (Redemptoris Missio, 62), and Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed in Evangelii Gaudium and throughout his ministry that all the baptized are called to be missionary disciples. In fact, “missionary commitment remains the first service that the Church owes to humanity today to guide and evangelize the cultural, social and ethical transformations, and to offer Christ’s salvation to the people of our time in so many parts of the world who are humiliated and oppressed by endemic poverty, violence and the systematic denial of human rights,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for World Mission Sunday 2007.
But what is this mission? The word “mission” is from the Latin, missio, meaning “sending forth,” and it is essential to our Christian identity. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” said Jesus, telling his followers to go to the ends of the earth and be his witnesses, proclaiming his Good News and making disciples of all nations (John 20:21; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8).
To be Jesus’ witnesses means striving to be in word and in deed more and more like Christ who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), and who has bestowed on us his life-giving Spirit. When Jesus was before Pilate, he said, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). Also, during his earthly ministry, and indeed since the beginning of the world, Christ was and is the living manifestation of Love, and his commandment to us is to remain in his love and love one another as he loves us (John 15:9-13).
In particular, bearing witness to truth like Jesus means, among other things, being true to our nature as God made us, rather than what our sinfulness has led us to be, and helping others to see the error of the false gods of materialism, individualism, and radical secularism that act as if God did not exist. We are also to offer to those we encounter the transformative power of love which bears abundant fruit – healing wounds, overcoming conflict, and promoting solidarity and sharing.
Our Christian mission is not only our fundamental right and freedom, but as Jesus taught, truth is necessary to freedom (cf. John 8:32). The theme for this year’s Fortnight could just as easily be Mission for Freedom. It is precisely in the Lord who is Truth, and in his Love, that we individually and in society can really be free.