By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis is encouraging Thai Catholics to be the missionary disciples of Jesus, in the footsteps of the first missionaries to their land. He said it will help them to encounter, discover and recognize with joy the faces of all those mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, whom the Lord wants to invite to His table.
He delivered a homily in his native Spanish, taking cue from the day’s Gospel of Matthew where Jesus, pointing to his disciples, says, “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Response leads to encounter
The Pope said that the Gospel is full of the questions that renew our lives and those of our communities with incomparable joy. Responding to the Lord’s word, the first missionaries to the Thai lands came to realize that they were part of a family much larger than any based on bloodlines, cultures, regions or ethnic groups.
Impelled by the power of the Spirit, their bags filled with the hope brought by the good news of the Gospel, they set out in search of family members they did not yet know. Without that encounter, Christianity would have lacked the Thai face, their songs, dances and their smile, the Pope told Thailand’s Catholics.
Pope Francis is in Thailand to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the establishment of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam in 1669, that formally marked the beginning of the Church in the country. The motto chosen for the papal visit is, “Christ’s Disciples, Missionary Disciples".
According to the Pope, 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.
Invited to the Lord's table
He said that the source and inspiration of all the Church’s evangelizing efforts is found in the Parable of the Wedding Feast, where the Lord orders as many as can be invited to the marriage feast from the streets.
With a fire of hope, he said, the 350th anniversary 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.
As missionary disciples of the Lord, he said, we choose to be a living part of the Lord’s family by sharing with others as He did. He ate with sinners, assuring them that they too had a place at the Father’s table and the table of this world. He touched those considered to be unclean and, by letting Himself be touched by them, He helped them to realize the closeness of God and to understand that they were blessed.
Making one family
In this regard, the Pope’s thoughts went out to those such as children and women victims of prostitution and human trafficking, young people enslaved by drug addiction and a lack of meaning that makes them depressed and destroys their dreams, migrants, deprived of their homes and families, many others who feel orphaned and abandoned, and exploited fishermen and bypassed beggars.
“All of them,” the Pope said, “are part of our family,” adding, “they are our mothers, our brothers and sisters”. He urged that communities see their faces, their wounds, their smiles and their lives and make them experience the merciful balm of God’s love that heals their wounds and pains. A missionary disciple, the Pope said, is one who opens doors in order to experience and share the merciful and healing embrace of God the Father, which makes of us one family.
In conclusion, Pope Francis urged Thailand’s Catholic communities to follow the “footsteps of the first missionaries, in order to encounter, discover and recognize with joy the faces of all those mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, whom the Lord wants to give us and who are absent from our Sunday table”.