World Mission Sunday. It is time to dig deep into our treasury and find ways that we can help missionaries in their efforts. The poor need us. However, on World Mission Sunday let us also consider how much we need the poor. When you meet a homeless person or look at a picture of a starving child, do you see faces of hopelessness and helplessness, or sainted faces of wisdom? The poor are missionaries to us! They speak to our conscience and lifestyle.
Many years ago, I was blessed in a most astounding way with a lesson on poverty. It was given to me by Bishop Arnold Cotey, SDS, a missionary who had just returned from many years in Tanzania. He was helping with confirmations in our diocese.
Within the rite for the sacrament of confirmation, there is an instruction to have a slice of bread and a lemon available for the bishop to cleanse the sacred chrism from his hands. Being a good liturgist, I had the required bread and lemon in the sacristy, prior to the confirmation Mass. Bishop Cotey took the plate, handed it to me and pastorally, but emphatically, said, “In my country of Tanzania many people will die this day for lack of a piece of bread. I will not use this to cleanse my hands; that would be an insult to the poor. Please bring me soap and water.” At that moment, all the people in missionary countries seemed to be standing with us in that sacristy. Since that day, every confirmation liturgy I have attended reminds me of Bishop Cotey and the compassion and holy righteousness of his missionary heart.
On this World Mission Sunday, the poor, hungry and thirsty for life in Christ, remind us to reach out to them with our faith and gift of treasury. However, let us also consider how we reach out our hand for ourselves. We are fortunate to live in a time and place where what we want, is close at hand.
The poor in missionary lands reach out for the single piece of bread. They travel long distances and wait for weeks on end to receive Jesus. They teach us to look with gratitude upon our bounty and not take it for granted. How can we relearn, in our own lives, how to reach out for what we need in a more compassionate, ethical, sharing manner?
Let us be thankful on this Mission Sunday that we have much to share with the poor, and that they stand as mirrors before us, reminding us “to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us” (Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Mission Sunday).
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.