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Papal Address to Missionaries
"The Baptized Are Called to the Spreading of the Gospel"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI delivered today in English to superiors general of missionary societies, in Rome for a meeting organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
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It is a particular pleasure for me to greet you, the Superiors General of Missionary Societies of Apostolic Life, meeting here in Rome at the invitation of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People. Your assembly, which brings together the Superiors of the fifteen Missionary Societies of pontifical right and the six of diocesan right, bears eloquent witness to the continuing vitality of the missionary impulse in the Church and the spirit of communion uniting your members and their manifold activities to the Successor of Peter and his universal apostolic ministry.
Your meeting is also a concrete sign of the historic relationship between the various Missionary Societies of Apostolic Life and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. In these days you have sought to examine new ways of consolidating and strengthening this privileged relationship. As the Second Vatican Council observed, Christ’s command to preach the Gospel to every creature applies primarily and immediately to the College of Bishops, cum et sub Petro (cf. "Ad Gentes," 38). Within the hierarchical unity of the Body of Christ, enriched by the variety of gifts and charisms bestowed by the Spirit, communion with the successors of the Apostles remains the criterion and guarantee of the spiritual fruitfulness of all missionary activity. For the Church’s communion in faith, hope and love is itself the sign and foretaste of that unity and peace which is God’s plan in Christ for the whole human family.
One of the promising indications of a renewal in the Church’s missionary consciousness in recent decades has been the growing desire of many lay men and women, whether single or married, to cooperate generously in the missio ad gentes. As the Council stressed, the work of evangelization is a fundamental duty incumbent upon the whole People of God, and all the baptized are called to "a lively awareness of their personal responsibility for the spreading of the Gospel" ("Ad Gentes," 36). While some Missionary Societies have had a long history of close collaboration with lay men and women, others have only more recently developed forms of lay association with their apostolate. Given the extent and the importance of the contribution made by these associates to the work of the various Societies, the proper forms of their cooperation should naturally be governed by specific statutes and clear directives respectful of each institute’s proper canonical identity.
Dear friends, our meeting today gives me a welcome opportunity to express my gratitude to you and to all the members of your Societies, past and present, for your enduring commitment to the Church’s mission. Today, as in the past, missionaries continue to leave their families and homes, often at great sacrifice, for the sole purpose of proclaiming the Good News of Christ and serving him in their brothers and sisters. Many of them, also in our time, have heroically confirmed their preaching by the shedding of their blood, and contributed to establishing the Church in distant lands. Today, changed circumstances have led in many cases to a decrease in the number of young people who are attracted to missionary societies, and a consequent decline in missionary outreach. All the same, as the late Pope John Paul II insisted, the mission ad gentes is still only beginning, and the Lord is summoning us, all of us, to be committed wholeheartedly to its service (cf. "Redemptoris Missio," 1). "The harvest is great!" (Mt 9:37) While conscious of the challenges you face, I encourage you to follow faithfully in the footsteps of your founders, and to stir into flame the charisms and apostolic zeal which you have inherited from them, confident that Christ will continue to work with you and to confirm your preaching with signs of his presence and power (cf. Mk 16:20).
With great affection, I commend you, together with the members and associates of your various Societies, to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.
© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
If Anyone Will Not Work, Let Him Not Eat
Gospel Commentary for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap
ROME, NOV. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- This Sunday's Gospel is one of the famous discourses on the end of the world, which are characteristic of the end of the liturgical year.
It seems that in one of the first Christian communities, that of Thessalonica, there were believers who drew mistaken conclusions from these discourses of Christ. They thought that it was useless to weary themselves, to work or do anything since everything was about to come to an end. They thought it better to take each day as it came and not commit themselves to long-term projects and only to do the minimum to get by.
St. Paul responds to them in the second reading: "We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food." At the beginning of the passage, St. Paul recalls the rule that he had given to the Christians in Thessalonica: "If anyone will not work, let him not eat."
This was a novelty for the men of that time. The culture to which they belonged looked down upon manual labor; it was regarded as degrading and as something to be left to slaves and the uneducated. But the Bible has a different vision. From the very first page it presents God as working for six days and resting on the seventh day. And all of this happens in the Bible before sin is spoken of. Work, therefore, is part of man's original nature and is not something that results from guilt and punishment. Manual labor is just as dignified as intellectual and spiritual labor. Jesus himself dedicates 17 years to the former -- supposing he began to work around 13 -- and only a few years to the latter.
A layman has written: "What sense and what value does our ordinary work as laypeople have before God? It is true that we laypeople also do a lot of charity work, engage in the apostolate, and volunteer work; but we must give most of our time and energies to ordinary jobs. If this sort of work has no value for heaven, we will have very little for eternity. No one we have asked about this has been able to give us satisfactory answers. They say: "Offer it all to God!" but is this enough?
My reply: No, the value of our work is not only conferred on it by the "good intention" we put into it or the morning offering we make to God; it also has a value in itself, as a participation in God's creative and redemptive work and as service to our brothers. We read in one of the Vatican II documents, in "Gaudium et Spes," that it is by "his labor [that] a man ordinarily supports himself and his family, is joined to his fellow men and serves them, and can exercise genuine charity and be a partner in the work of bringing divine creation to perfection. Indeed, we hold that through labor offered to God man is associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ" (No. 67).
The work that one does is not as important as that for which he does it. This re-establishes a certain parity, beneath distinctions -- which are sometimes unjust and scandalous -- in position and pay. A person who has done the most humble jobs in life can be of greater "value" than those people who hold positions of great prestige.
It was said that work is a participation in the creative action of God and in the redemptive action of Christ and that it is a source of personal and social growth, but we know that it is also weariness, sweat and pain. It can ennoble but it can also empty and wear down. The secret is to put one's heart into what one's hands do. It is not so much the amount or type of work done that tires us out, as much as it is the lack of enthusiasm and motivation. To the earthly motivations for work, faith adds eternal motivations: "Our works," the Book of Revelation says, "will follow us" (14:13).
[Translation by ZENIT]
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Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Malachi 4:1-2a; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19.