All Christians are called to be missionaries

Readings: Is. 45.1-6; Ps. 96; 1 Thess. 1.1-5; Mt. 28. 16-20

Today is World Mission Sunday. Isaiah presents the vision that God's mission is universal; he comes to save all people. In the second reading, St. Paul demonstrates that vision by preaching and writing to the Gentiles. In the gospel, Jesus instructs us to go out to all nations. Today the Church reminds all baptized Christians that we share a world mission to go forth to all nations. We are called to have a global vision, to have a concern for all peoples. I hope that you receive in your homes some Catholic magazines, and that you click on to Catholic websites so that you may become familiar with Catholic issues throughout the world. Please expose yourselves to the Catholic Christian media.

Today, I'd like to give some general and specific information pertinent to the World Mission. Generally, of the six billion people on the face of the earth, about 1 billion are Catholic, and another billion are non-Catholic Christian. One third of the world's population, therefore, is Christian. Meanwhile, Muslims, which had appeared to be a dying religion and a relatively irrelevant religion in the late 1700s, have found a new vision. Muslims now number 1.3 billion members. The average number of children per family in Muslim countries is now about seven or eight children. Meanwhile, no country in Europe has a replaceable birth rate, and I suspect the same is true for the USA and Canada. Western World Christianity is literally dying. Plus more and more Westerners are describing themselves as atheists. In the West, we need to remember and appreciate our Christian roots. Freedom and forgiveness are Western Christian values; many Muslim countries don't permit much freedom, and the Koran never mentions forgiveness. We Christians and Catholics need to find a new vision and new way to express our roots. And we need a lot more babies. As I taught in the 1970s, the idea of a population explosion is a myth. The reality is that most of Africa and Latin America is under-populated. Please don't buy into the popular myth of population explosion. And please have more babies, but please be married first, in order to provide these children with a stable home, and that you be missionaries to your children. Evangelize, please, in your home, at work, and at school.

Specifically, I'd like to speak about two countries as examples of world mission needs. I'd like to speak about Nicaragua and India.

Nicaragua is located in Central America. This parish has a sister parish at Managua, Nicaragua. Nicaragua's size is slightly larger than PA. It has half the population of PA, but half of Nicaragua's population is under age 18. About 90% of Nicaragua is Catholic. Thirty percent of Pennsylvanians identify themselves as Catholic. The ratio of priests per Catholics in PA is about 1 priest for every 1,000 Catholics; and in Nicaragua, about 1 for every 10,000 Catholics. Our sister parish is Our Lady of Pilar. St. Joseph Parish sends its one collection for the poor each April to our sister parish; the sums comes to about $1400. In the recent past, the pastor there has told me that the money was spent for children's clothing one year; and another year, for a microphone system. This year, he writes to me that besides his parish, he has responsibility for three chapels. One chapel has four walls but no roof. The other two chapels need repair of their roofs, doors, and windows. Many spiritual and material needs are dire for our fellow Catholics in Nicaragua.

India. St. Thomas the Apostle brought the Christian faith to India in 52 AD. He founded communities all across the southern part of the subcontinent, and 20 years later, suffered martyrdom at the hands of Hindu leaders in India. Catholics in the southern states of Kerala and Karnataka are very proud of their 2,000 year history, and describe themselves as St. Thomas Christians. In the mid-1500's, St. Francis Xavier came to India. Despite these very famous missionaries then, and saints like Mother Teresa of Calcutta now, India remains only 3% Christian, most of whom are Catholics. In recent years, Protestants have developed missionary churches in India.

For the last ten years, the Christian Churches have suffered violent persecution in India. Some politicians have manipulated simple people by exaggerating the number of conversions from Hinduism to Christianity, claiming that these conversions are forced or bought because most conversions come from the tribal peoples or untouchables. These politicians have portrayed Christianity as a threat to Hindu culture and religion. Catholics respond that they have been present for 2,000 years, and still remain just 3% of the population, and that conversions are free, not forced; and that the Christians take care of the low class and outcastes whom the Hindu people themselves mistreat. When I visited India in 2003, persecutions were occurring in the northern states. Anti-conversion laws had been passed, and the native Daughters of Charity, for safety's sake, had to change from wearing their typical blue habit to a saffron sarong. This January 2008, a bloody persecution broke out, and another bloody persecution has continued since this past August. In the last two months, four dozen Christians have been killed. Tens of thousands of Christians have been wounded. Their homes, churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and clinics have been burned. Tabernacles have been desecrated. Statues of Our Lady have been smashed. Tens of thousands of Christians have fled to refugee camps, but the government of these political parties provides no sanitation and no security. Tens of thousands of people have fled from the refugee camps and are hiding in the forests. The persecution has spread now from the northern states to the southern states. The situation is tragic. Meanwhile, vocations to priesthood and sisterhood are booming in India. One of the problems is that dioceses and religious orders have more candidates than they can provide for in terms of housing, feeding, and educating. Ironically, the Third World has vocations but little money, whereas in the West we have money but few vocations. Please God that is beginning to change now. Many dioceses and religious communities in the USA doubled their number of candidates beginning in September 2008.

On this World Mission Sunday, let's pray and act for the Church throughout the world. Please subscribe to some Catholic literature that presents a worldwide view. Like the prophet Isaiah, let's possess a global vision that is global. Like St. Paul, let's do something about it. As Jesus told us, let's spread the faith. By the sacrament of baptism, all Christians are called to be missionaries.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley