Missionaries are not mercenaries, but beggars who recognise that some brothers and sisters are missing from the community and long to hear the good news of salvation, Pope Francis told the Catholics of Thailand.
Celebrating Mass on 21st November, the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in Bangkok’s National Stadium, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of what he calls “missionary discipleship”.
Pope Francis’ visit was part of the celebrations of the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam Mission, the first Catholic jurisdiction in what was to become Thailand.
In his homily, the pope said the early missionaries realised “they were part of a family much larger than any based on blood lines, cultures, regions or ethnic groups,” and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, “they set out in search of family members they did not yet know”.
The missionaries didn’t see the Thai people as pagans or nonbelievers, but as brothers and sisters, the pope said. And they did not just want to share the Gospel with the Thai people, but wanted “to receive what they needed to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Scriptures”.
“A missionary disciple is not a mercenary of the faith or a producer of proselytes, but rather a humble mendicant who feels the absence of brothers, sisters and mothers with whom to share the irrevocable gift of reconciliation that Jesus grants to all,” the pope said.
Pope Francis said he came to Thailand for the anniversary not to encourage some kind of nostalgia for the past, but to help spark “a fire of hope” to help Catholics today reach out to others with the same “determination, strength and confidence” the early missionaries had.
The anniversary, he said, should be “a festive and grateful commemoration that helps us to go forth joyfully to share the new life born of the Gospel with all the members of our family whom we do not yet know”.
Those family members, the pope said, include the “children and women who are victims of prostitution and human trafficking, humiliated in their essential human dignity,” and deserving of God’s love and promise of salvation.
They also include “young people enslaved by drug addiction” and “migrants, deprived of their homes and families, and so many others, who like them can feel orphaned, abandoned,” but deserve a family and a helping hand, Pope Francis said.
“All of them are part of our family,” the pope said. “They are our mothers, our brothers and sisters. Let us not deprive our communities of seeing their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lives. Let us not prevent them from experiencing the merciful balm of God’s love that heals their wounds and pains.
“A missionary disciple knows that evangelization is not about gaining more members or about appearing powerful,” the pope said. “Rather, it is about opening doors in order to experience and share the merciful and healing embrace of God the Father, which makes of us one family.”
Picture: Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass in National Stadium in Bangkok on 21st November 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).